This story is by Kaartika Chitturi and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Emily! EMILY!” my mother shouted at me from across the room
“Yes?” I said, not bothering to look up from my phone
“Have you heard anything I’ve been saying until now?”
“No, why?” I said scrolling down through the posts and liking more pictures
She sighed and mumbled “Never mind”
I ignored her and went back to scrolling through my phone as it chimed once again.
“Hi Emily! How’ve u been?” read the text my friend Lilly sent me
“Fine. U?” I asked politely
“Great!” she said and sent me a funny cat gif
“Lol” I replied sending her back another gif
It continued on until my mother once again interrupted
“I really don’t understand what’s so interesting in that phone of yours. You haven’t put it down once in hours.” She said sitting down next to me
As always, I didn’t answer her, but I did wonder, what was so interesting about this? Was it the pictures of the girls posing in layers of makeup, or the funny videos or the latest trends that change nearly every day? I pushed all those thoughts out of my heads as Lillie sent me another cat gif.
“Who are you talking to?” my mum asked
I sighed and went up to my room wanting to avoid another question from her and continued sending more funny animal gifs to each other.
A few hours later I decided to join my family for dinner tonight after a long time.
“Emily, please put your phone away while eating,” my mum said in her firm voice as I was texting my friend.
“But, I have to Instagram it first! And then I need to post it on Twitter, snap chat, and Facebook.” I said as I sat down at the table “Mum? What is this?”
“It’s Lasagne! You love lasagne and I made it with extra cheese! Just the way you like it” She said smiling proudly
I shook my head “You know that I can’t eat Lasagne. I’m dieting to be healthier remember?” I knew this was a complete lie. I was healthy, but I wasn’t good enough. I need to look better than my friends on social media if I want to get more likes and compliments.
“But it’s Sunday! You can call it a cheat day and eat a bit. I worked so hard on it and if you don’t eat it, it’s going to go to waste.”
I shook my head “I can’t afford to cheat on my diet. I don’t care if you bin it, just give me my salad or I’ll be happy to skip lunch all together.”
With a hurt look on her face she replaced my lasagne with some salad which I ate pretending that it tasted delicious.
A few minutes passed as my parents talked about general things whilst I checked my phone underneath the table, when I finally asked, “Can I go to the park later?”
They looked up from their lunch a bit surprised. I don’t blame them because I hardly ever go outside these days but I heard that it’s an amazing place to take a selfie and I need to post something today. It’s an impeccable idea!
“Why not?” My dad said “Sounds perfectly fine to me.”
“Yeah, have fun” she said looking a little suspicious before adding “Be careful”
I nodded and headed back upstairs abandoning my half full salad downstairs wondering which top to wear and show off on social media.
After a few hours, I was finally outside at the park. The sun was partially hidden by the clouds and the trees swayed elegantly in the cold breeze. It was perfect. I strolled along the pathway not paying any attention to the peaceful environment around me, occasionally stopping to take pictures.
I started to wander around and got distracted by the new posts on instagram. I was oblivious to my surroundings, occasionally bumped into trees and lamp posts. Without realising what I was doing, I walked onto the middle of the road as a car zoomed into me, and before I could realise I was in the air. A weird thought occurred to me wishing that I could have recorded this moment for a post. It would’ve definitely gone viral. But it all happened so fast that before I knew it I was on the ground with a pool of blood surrounding me. And then everything was a blur, there were frantic cries of shock, worry and loud gasps. The last thing I heard was the faint sound of the ambulance sirens.
After a couple of days
I breathed in the overpowering scent of the disinfectant and instantly felt pain shooting up my body. I cried in agony as my whole body started to ache. I shut my eyes hoping that this was all a bad dream when I heard familiar voices frantically speak.
“Emily? Emily, are you awake?” asked a new gentle voice
I slowly flickered my eyes open trying to adjust them to the light. Looking around the room I recognised two faces,
“Mum? Dad?” I said in a low voice. My throat felt dry and hoarse as I tried to speak. As I started to wonder where I was, when all the events from yesterday came back rushing to me. I remembered everything that happened, every detail that finally brought me here and tears started to pour out of my eyes. Was it all really my fault? Or was it truly an accident? I searched for my phone around the room and when I didn’t find it anywhere I felt too reluctant to ask my parents about it, scared that they might tell me off about it.
As days passed, I started to get better. The desire to want to just check my phone started to die away when an alien feeling started to develop in me. Guilt. I felt guilty each day I saw my parents travel from home to the hospital just because of an irresponsible act I did to land myself in this situation. They cared for me like no one else ever did and sacrificed things in their life to make mine better. To think that I didn’t care about them at all because I wanted to spend more time on my phone made me feel disgusted about myself.
I remembered when I used to spend a lot more time with my family and had amazing memories with them before I got social media. I remember going on small trips with my friends that were always exciting and memorable and we used to spend time together often.
Now I also felt guilty when I saw my best friends, who have always been there for me. I took no notice of them when they just wanted to spend more time with me. Despite all that they were here to make my time in the hospital easier for me to cope with all these days.
When I finally got discharged from the hospital, my father gave me my phone back saying,
“Use it responsibly”
I stared at the device in my eyes hesitantly logged into my account on social media. Surprisingly, there weren’t many messages from my social media friends. I was hoping that there would be a lot of worried texts from people and to think that I actually believed that they cared about me seemed a bit absurd, because they never did. I only thought they did, so this wasn’t their fault. I was to blame for wasting my time on social media building my reputation online, when I could’ve done much better things, like study or spend more time with my family and experience new things in life.
I realised what I did. I should have spent less time on social media and used it for better purposes. And now I only want one thing more than anything else. I want to move away from my virtual life on social media. I want to be happy and have many memories with my friends and family. I want to be able to experience little things in life.
I just want my real life back.