“In Great Company” is about a teenager who, in search of some entertainment on the internet, finds the expected, the unexpected, and a mystery behind why the internet is full of constant arguments and comments on even the most mundane content.
Max, like most lost souls on the internet, had latched onto something to be pissed off about. He’d been sent a link to a Youtube video in which an overweight teenager with moon crater-like acne complains about the tendency of young women in his age group to date assholes.
He pointed out that the common belief that girls espoused claiming to want nice guys was a load of crap. In fact, he’d been nice to a girl for two-three weeks. He bought her coffee in the morning, escorted her to class, commented on her beauty, and listened to her past relationships woes—adding that, if given the chance, he’d treat her differently.
After these 3 weeks, upon finally summoning the courage to ask said girl on a real date, he was given the infamous friend-zone speech in condensed form (“I really like you, but…). He was airing out his frustrations on Youtube because he had a following and wanted to see what people thought about the whole situation.
It received some notoriety among the female population of both Twitter and Facebook, with an entire population of females showing up to defend their gender against this new, personified enemy.
A few were nice enough to point out that he was generalizing an entire population based off a single experience with one person:
-There are nice girls out there. Just keep looking!
-I can say the same about guys. Beware of overgeneralizations.
– u cute <3333333333333333
-nice video about o put this on facebook
There were others who were a little less forgiving, making sure that creator of the video realized that, as individuals, they had the right to date whoever the hell they wanted:
-Get over yourself. You spend three weeks being nice to someone you supposedly like, and then bitch about it from the comfort of your computer because she didn’t let you get it in? You’re a jerk. No wonder she didn’t give you a chance. I don’t blame her.
-RUDE TO GIRLS.
-u just embaressed urself, lol
Max’s friend, Alice, was in the latter category. She didn’t make a comment on the video. She instead decided that she’d post a link of it to Facebook, where she would be able to give it visibility among her friends.
No one had commented on it. Max decided that he would be the first one to comment. This is what he chose to say:
-lol what a loser. its obvious he just wanted to get into her pants.
Max could recognize the irony of the situation: he’d been driven to comment on Alice’s status with the sole intention of getting into her pants. After about ten minutes of refreshing, he finally got a like from Alice.
About twenty minutes after this, there was another person whom neither Alice nor Max were friends with by the name of Alec Miller. He commented right under Max’s comment:
Max had never met, seen, or heard of this person before, and felt compelled to attack him back. However, before he could post his two paragraph response, Alice had already come to his defense:
-??? ummm, idk who u r, but could u go somewhere else? k thx
Max was touched by this response. It made him think that he had a better shot with her than he’d thought. He liked her comment.
Another five minutes passed, and Alec Miller had a simple response back to Alice:
-sry, i couldnt hear you over the sounds of all those dicks ur sucking that dont belong to Max.
Max had formulated a five paragraph response to this, but Alice had already deleted the status. She was online; he opened a chat window.
-what an asshole
-idk who tht guy is
-I dnt want him on my shit.
-how was ur day?
Convinced that she was still a potential girlfriend, Max minimized the chat window, opened up a new tab and went to Yahoo.com, where he got his news. He scrolled down. He was beginning to get annoyed seeing Kim Kardashian’s latest bikini shot, Kanye West’s latest “I’m not rich enough to get what I want” outbursts, and random celebrities he’d completely forgotten about announcing divorces.
Back to Facebook. Alice’s chat window had five new messages. Before opening those, he looked at his news feed, where his friend, Michael, had posted up a link to a blog. The status attached read: “I can’t believe any of this. Can someone else verify this?”
More interested in this new development and being the first to verify something than he was in Alice’s day, he clicked the link, where he was directed to a blog titled: “YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!” The entire blog was black, with no pictures and red text. The most recent post was titled “Suicide Note”, which read:
“I wrote a specialized program that is in high demand for social media websites and comment handlers. Would you like to know what it is? Of course you would. You have one of those accounts, probably, and would prefer not to waste your time on the internet doing pointless things. There are too many funny memes, too many videos, too much information to be processed for there to be a single second that a kilobyte of data isn’t transferred into grey matter format. OK, here it goes: the program I wrote is called: “Isolation Box”, currently in it’s 3rd iteration. I had to fix the insult bug–now a much larger bank of insults and emotional responses–and the response times were, while timely enough, too scheduled. I developed an algorithm based on chaos math which allows people to perform a random activity to delay their instinct to check their phones. When they did check their phones again, they’d find one-to-two responses to whatever they posted online. The number of responses the program generates is still a matter I’m trying to fix–for some reason, I feel some responsibility to alter the program’s selection system.
It imitates real-life surprisingly well: attractive, insightful, irreverent people get preferential treatment; ugly or idiosyncratic people get ordered from levels of awkwardness and are responded to accordingly (tabulated on a range from Aubrey Plaza-level awkward to Michael-Scott-from-The Office-level awkward).
My program has been in effect ever since Facebook got it’s total membership up to their coveted goal of 1 billion. I’ve since gotten a few more companies on board (Google, AOL, and Yahoo especially), each of them invested in the business of keeping as many people on their websites as possible. What’s the best way to do this? Have people argue with one another from the comfort of their homes, with the entire web of human knowledge at their disposal and a couple billion people watching (they think). The truth is, no one cares. No one cares about your little opinions on abortion, health care, and whether or not Taylor Swift deserved Album of the Year. Life is happening around all of you, and none of you seem to care. It took me a long fucking time to come up with this program. I had to spend about six months of my life sitting in front of a computer screen looking at nothing but the random responses people put on random sites and making sure each response occurred randomly. I walk down the street and I say hi to people. They don’t hear me. They’re too busy arguing with some random guy on Facebook about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman. Meanwhile, there are an infinite number of things occurring at once that is being lost on them as they scan their pixelated screens for possible responses that match up with their own. It’s all so pathetic, this is the first time I’ve been on the internet since I first sold the program.
Now, I’m finished. I was able to build a large enough empire that I won’t be missed. And good–after so many years hearing and watching people argue alternatively over both the most banal and important topics, believing that they’re actually doing anything about any of it, I think an eternity of darkness sounds pretty”
The letter ended there. Max stared at his laptop screen for a few seconds, expecting some kind of continuation to appear, before scrolling down to the comments section.
The very first comment read:
-A program exists that randomly generates responses to comments? And you were smart enough to make it? 0/10 troll harder, FGT.
There was a response to this comment that read:
-I’m a robot designed to comment back something insulting, but you’re just not worth it.
The second comment read:
-I call bullshit.
The third comment read:
-Dude, you were able to create something this amazing and decided that you’d be better off dead? Wow. Way to go, humanity. You chased another genius off.
There was a response to this comment that read:
-If this guy killed himself he failed the test and doesn’t deserve to be alive.
This got Max pretty angry. His friend had committed suicide after his girlfriend broke up with him last year. He scanned Wikipedia to look for a possible rebuttal that would include the fact that his friend suffered from clinical depression and a list of very smart people who also committed suicide. But first, he knew that he had to respond to Alice’s messages. He hit the backspace button on his keyboard, and Facebook opened up. He opened her chat window again.
-i hated math today omg
-my bitch of a teacher called on me
-and i forgot to do the hw
-i have more to do tonight. hbu?
-sry, I had to go help my mom with the laundry.
-awwwww how sweet <3
-hey, ur not a robot, r u?
-i read this weird blog.
-it says robots comment back to wht u rite on da net.
-nah. im real. i think.
Having settled that existential crisis, Max proceeded to verify to his friend that it was indeed bullshit before replying to the commenter on the blog with a six paragraph response. He felt a profound sense of satisfaction, before refreshing the page again and seeing that he’d responded back with more insults. This fucker, Max thought, preparing an eight paragraph response this time. This would show him, Max thought, feeling a little more validated with each word.