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are we just getting more lost?

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Sean doesn’t use much social media, as a rule – none of them do. If you ask Gumpa, it’s a safety thing, making them harder to find; ask Black, and it’s a matter of principled opposition to the companies that run them. Yok, he knows, uses Instagram for his art but doesn’t talk about it to the others. Sean sometimes thinks the real reason is that none of them have enough social connections to be worth it, without big families to keep in touch with or sprawling lists of high school friends.

He does have a facebook account. It’s pretty much bare, with his profile picture a photo of the back of his head, and he mostly uses it to keep an eye on his faculty group chat – it’s the only place anyone shares useful information like “this lecture’s been moved” or “that professor accepts late papers for up to a week without penalty”.

Sometimes, though, people tag him in photos. He dutifully untags himself when he sees them, but the number of photos people take around campus every day makes it inevitable that more get taken.

When he’s sitting at a library computer in the first week after his suspension is finally lifted, he sees a notification that he’s been tagged in a new photo, posted by one of his classmates. When he opens it, he feels a complicated, bitter pang – they’re only in the background of the picture in question, mainly focused on the classmate’s boyfriend and his new haircut, but it shows him talking to Gram, Black sitting beside them looking vaguely bored. It’s an old photo, and the caption is the girl who posted it bemoaning that her boyfriend hadn’t kept the look for longer. He’d be able to tell it’s an old photo anyway; he’s sitting within a few feet of Black and there isn’t murder in his eyes.

He sucks his teeth and is in the process of untagging himself when he notices something odd.

There’s a suggested tag over Black’s face; his cursor hovers and he sees the list of names – none of which is necessarily weird, except for the one at the top. The profile picture is a close-up face shot, or he wouldn’t have noticed it, but he could swear that fucking hypocrite has an account. One with at least a few tagged photos, if it’s getting suggested like this.

The name listed is “White P.” which he could take as a stupid joke from someone less humourless – is that supposed to be a clever alias? Unbelievable.

He should leave Black to make his own mistakes, and he will; he just wants a closer look at whatever Black thinks he’s doing with this account. After untagging himself, he clicks through to “White’s” account to take a closer look.

Upon opening the profile picture, it’s very clearly not just a lookalike close enough to fool the algorithm, but it’s also nothing like anything he’s seen from Black before. For one thing, he’s wearing glasses; for another, there’s a smile stretching across his face that makes him look almost shy. What the fuck is he up to?

He can’t actually see any of the other pictures he knows must be on the account; it’s a private account, and everything except his name, profile picture, and “current occupation” of student is hidden. He doesn’t recognise the name of the university listed.

No mutual friends, so he’s not using it to communicate in secret with anyone from the gang.

Whatever Black’s up to, it pretty concretely goes against both his own statements and Gumpa’s orders, which means it’s obviously something he won’t want Sean to know. It’s that thought that has him overriding his distaste at the thought of adding Black as a “friend” and typing out a message request.

One rule for Black, another for the rest of us?

At first, he adds a snarky “typical” to the end, but he deletes it quickly. That would look bitter where he’s going for rightfully angry. He presses send and goes back to the article he really should have been reading this whole time, and he doesn’t think anything else about it.