Thursday, March 7, 2019


Echo Chamber
By John C Adams

Chris Miller clicked the Decline Echo Chamber button and watched it disappear in front of his eyes. But before he could enjoy the momentary thrill of saving a few pennies as he settled into an evening on The Corporation's Society Unlimited application, a deluge of comments appeared replying to his first post.

Thirty seconds later, precisely long enough for Chris to become mildly irritated, The Corporation triggered the first of what would be many nudges encouraging him to pay extra to have the negative comments removed.

Chris smacked Decline again as soon it re-appeared, but it was immediately replaced by an equally annoying Are You Sure? button, pulsing in his peripheral vision. He blocked it out by resting an open book against the screen. Sixty seconds later, it emerged on the other side of the screen. He covered it with his book, but the button gradually wormed its way to the middle of the screen, until it was simply easier to click the tiny cross on the top-left corner of the button.

"Yes," Chris muttered to himself. "I am damn well sure!"

Chris's partner Billy glanced up from the screen opposite. He chuckled at the sight of his better half moaning as The Corporation connected him to the outside world for yet another evening of social interaction.

"Diversity of opinion getting you down again?"

"Being asked to pay to get rid of stuff I don't agree with? What does that say about me if I accept?"

Billy smiled. His fair, curly hair tumbled into his eyes and he tucked it behind his ears. He leant back in his chair, tipping the front castors off the ground, just keeping his balance by maintaining contact between his toes and the floor.

"Tells me that life's too short, frankly. Just press the button! It's only a few pennies! I click it just to get rid of the prompts."

Chris scowled. Precisely what they wanted over at The Corporation. Either you were fed up with seeing ranting arguments about the most innocuous of posts, and paid up. Or the electronic nagging got to you eventually, and you paid up.

Are You Sure? returned. This time, it throbbed in the middle of the screen. Chris clicked Echo Chamber, and watched his credits decline as the cost of the service was debited from his account.

It became more expensive, the later you paid for the Echo Chamber during your session on Society Unlimited. Damn it, it was cheaper to be an intolerant so-and-so from the moment you logged in!

The bliss of the Echo Chamber took only nanoseconds to numb Chris's annoyance. Billy was right. The joyous absence of the Are You Sure? button was worth the cost of it alone. And the carping criticism of his post on the correct oven temperature for soft meringues disappeared. It was replaced by a barrage of praise from people who claimed to have tried it, loved it and couldn't recommend the recipe highly enough.

Some of them referred back to Chris's blog post yesterday, about how to make sticky toffee with just the right consistency that it melted in your mouth. One or two wags added a few flirty jokes about how good it tasted. A conspicuously attractive couple of influencers cracked a dirty gag about sucking up every last drop. People loved the hint of smut, and everyone just piled in. Suddenly, he had thousands of likes, and hundreds of comments recommending his blog.

Chris's first instinct was to join the banter, but he hesitated. This was a fantastic response rate, but could anyone have tried it in the five minutes since he'd posted his blog? It took two hours to cook meringues!

Beckoning Billy to take look, Chris swivelled the screen round and showed him the results.

"Advertising. At least they give you something for your money. Better than an eerie silence online."

Chris pondered this wisdom as the seconds ticked down before the Echo Chamber expired. The timer had appeared in the top-right corner of his screen as soon as he'd paid. Occasionally, it was joined by a pulsing button, offering him a discount if he paid now to extend his Echo Chamber session, even though it still had an hour to run.

Nothing was worse than posting something, only to have it ignored. But how could he tell which, if any, of these clicks and likes and downloads of his recipes were genuine?

What if the Echo Chamber was just an empty shell?

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John C Adams is a Contributing Editor for the Aeon Award and Albedo One Magazine, and a Reviewer at Schlock! Webzine. John's fantasy novel Aspatria and futuristic horror novel Souls for the Master are available now on Amazon.


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