Fiction: Algorithm for Life

By Deborah Zafer

It has been a long day and the woman logs on to try and find answers to the questions that trouble her like why? When? How? Who?
The internet is ready, has pulled up a chair by the fire.
‘I might have some ideas,’ it says, putting the kettle on, ‘here, look.’
If you liked growing up somewhere where trees were all you could see from your bedroom window and where you enjoyed a perfect sense of belonging to the land and place, why not try moving to the biggest city in Europe?
If you liked being single and choosing every day anew where to go and who to be, why not try getting married young and fast?
If you have always enjoyed the perfect bliss of being alone, why not try having four kids?
The woman shakes her head, ‘this isn’t quite what I need,’ she says, ‘but thanks for the tea, it was nice.’ Maybe, she thinks, she should go and see if her husband wants to watch something together instead. Or they could talk?
‘Unsure about your choices so far?’ the internet asks quickly before she has the chance to move, ‘how about these options instead?’
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The internet can tell she isn’t quite on the same page. It’s probably the way she has put her tea down and is getting out of the chair.
‘Still not right?’ the internet asks nervously, whipping out a plate of her favourite biscuits just in time and gently placing her back into the chair, ‘other things you can try are:’
89% of people who live in your neighbourhood and are in the same age bracket as you wonder how and why their life is the way it is. Click here to find out more.
87% of people who live in your neighbourhood and are the same gender as you agree that they use technology as a means to stop them from having to address this question. Why not join them?
‘Oh, and also,’ the internet adds, activating the massage option on the chair, and leaning her back:
54% of people who live in your neighbourhood and also have children could potentially be your friends if you spoke about any of this with them.
Of those, almost 12% feel exactly the same sense of slowly dying inside when other people talk to them about their home improvements/school preferences/child’s achievements as you do.
Of those, less than 2% have walked past you today or sat near you in the playground thinking very similar thoughts and wishing someone would reach out to them.
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Julia is so relaxed now that the internet is whispering its ideas gently into her ear and it is hard to tell what are her thoughts and what comes from the internet. This is probably because the internet has also activated some soothing music and all of this has chipped away at her sense of what time it is or what day or what else it is she should be doing.
She settles in. She feels supported and cared for.
‘If none of this works,’ the internet says, sitting down next to her on the other chair and putting its feet up, so companionable now, ‘why not come back tomorrow. We fine-tune our algorithm every day so you don’t have to.’
The internet smiles at her, she thinks it is actually quite nice, after all, and doesn’t deserve the things people say about it. Mean things.
Certainly, no one else has made such an effort for her recently, pulled out all the stops.
The smell of toasting marshmallows wafts through the air. The internet is spoiling her now. It knows exactly what she wants, which is more than she can say for her husband these days. Who knows what he is up to downstairs?
‘Thanks, internet, I feel much better now,’ the woman says, as the clock chimes midnight, ‘Maybe I will come back tomorrow. Maybe, I will.’

Deborah Zafer lives in London and can be found on Twitter or at