by SA Leavesley

The figures never lie. Nor do Dora’s tweets, though she might tweak, twist, turn details slightly to show her personality in best light. June 2017 – 97 tweets, 36.6k impressions, 33 mentions. Up, mostly, from last July’s 89 tweets, 23.3k impressions and, okay, 39 mentions.

So, there must have been a bad day on the latter count. But everyone has them right? Or most likely a data error, something techy at the website end. Yes, that’s what it would be. Not, she tells herself, that her life is built around Twitter. She has a real world of—eat, sleep, work, repeat. Sneaking a little tweet here and there simply breaks up the beat when everyday gets defeatist. Evenings and weekends never really fall empty when she has Netflix, Candy Crush and endless lives to flitter through online. Once, only once, she’s felt the urge to type: ‘Sitting here alone again, waiting for my phone to ring.’ But she brushed away that pitiful need.

Dora’s fingers and eyes flicker from mobile to remote control to flat screen to smartphone glass, and back again – darting even faster than her thoughts. Ten checks so far today, and her popularity’s still on the rise, as is her soda/jellybean/choc-eating gaming score. A bright girl who’ll go far, her teachers said, and not so very long ago. Shame they’re not on Twitter or Facebook though, so won’t see her latest news. Not the job promotion (from intern to office assistant), or her dream island. Not the cute cat that keeps straying into the duvet-size garden, her recipe for noodle salad, the balloon birthday card from her mum… No hint that The Picture of Dorian Gray remains unopened on her bookshelf, along with Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice.

When Dora posts her own happiness, she almost believes it. After all, her virtual life is more active and more vivid than her dreams. So many friends, great opportunities, meaningful interactions. But perhaps she’d best look at her stats again, to be safe. Ah, another mention, a new impression. Dora smiles as she switches from Twitter to Facebook and starts typing. After that, she has Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn to keep updated. She wonders if it’s time too for a new selfie? For sure now, her profile pic is more accurate and more familiar than her reflection in the bathroom mirror.

More familiar than her reflection in the bathroom mirror…when I look at Dora’s profile and hear these thoughts, do I see myself? She and I are the same, give or take some small insignificances. I catch her latest status – ‘hoping to watch a concert’, as I browse the dates for Bruno Mars. I admire her latest pose, carefully staged against blue sky and roses, shot and re-shot 17 or 18 times because the wind won’t leave my hair alone.

Is it her thought or mine when I wonder if this sedentary social whirl belongs to the same girl who used to dance through the night and would swim a thousand oceans until she found her dream life?

I hit ‘like’, as if on automatic. The figures creep up. I wonder what would happen if I, then everyone, stopped clicking life into this persona. My hand hovers. Will only one, or both of us, disappear if I close my laptop and delete the apps from my phone?

SA Leavesley is a journalist, fiction writer, poet and editor, with flash publications including Jellyfish Review, The Nottingham Review, Oxford Today, Under the Radar, Elbow Room, Fictive Dream, The Ofi Press Literary Magazine and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine (forthcoming). Her second novella, Always Another Twist, is out in 2018.