I want to explore the potential consequences of over-relying on digital media to define our experiences and self-worth, as well as the over-stimulation that this digitization of experiences creates. (Heavily inspired by the terrifying NPC trend that’s happening lately with livestreams).
In my story, there’s a historical event known as “The Emotional Crash” which led to a massive worldwide spike in mental health crises, allegedly due to information overload and emotional burnout from constantly being exposed to global tragedies via early social media. Following the aftermath of these tragedies, tech conglomerates, with support from global governments, introduced LifeStream, a platform where everyone’s experiences are curated, sanitized, and scripted to ensure collective emotional stability. The world slowly divides into two primary types of people: streamers and spectators. The division isn’t permanent, and people can switch roles at any point, but there’s a society expectation to maintain the balance – each role cannot exist without the other.
Streamers broadcast their daily lives. Their experiences are sanitized and scripted to ensure they follow the accepted narrative of emotional stability for the algorithm to approve for broadcasting, and they use digital tools like Augmented Reality to modify surroundings and create the “perfect” life. These streamers earn digital credit from Spectator engagement to be used for real-world privileges.
Spectators are the majority of the population that assumes this role at any given time. They engage with Streamers through likes, shares, and comments, and are rewarded for their engagement with digital points to also be used for real-world benefits. Their lives rely on the streams for entertainment, living vicariously through the highly curated lives of streamers.
Over time, raw emotions, genuine experiences, and unscheduled moments became things of the past, with younger generations growing up knowing nothing else.
Jaxon, a product of this era, is a top-tier streamer who broadcasts a perfected digital persona, yet he struggles with an emptiness he’s unable to define.
Turning Point 1: During a rare maintenance period in LifeStream, Leo’s streaming headset access a hidden, almost forbidden channel that dreams of memories from the pre-Crash era. He’s deeply moved by raw displays of happiness, sadness, love, and loss – emotions only understood in their diluted, scripted forms (Visualization: maybe flash images from emotional movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). He’s confused, yet moved by what he saw, and for once that feeling of emptiness fleeted for a few seconds. He needs to discover more.
Turning Point 2: Leo experiments by tinkering with his headset to find that channel again. He garners the attention of a group of rebels called the “Archivists” who share him the truth – the Emotional Crash was exaggerated and leveraged by those in power to quickly move in and garner support towards their programs that ultimately aimed to control narratives and emotions. The Archivists offer Leo a deeper dive into authentic memories but warn him of the system’s inherent defenses against such truths. Leo slowly begins injecting in references to these memories and conversations into his livestreams.
Turning Point 3: As LifeStream’s AI detects deviations in Leo’s content, it starts manipulating his streams to remove this content. He gets flagged by the authorities. Leo, with the Archivists’ guidance, hatches a plan to expose the platform’s users to raw, genuine human experiences, aiming to kickstart a societal emotional awakening.
Resolution: Leo releases the authentic archives (idk how yet but he does) and it floods the world. Communities start forming, people start rediscovering raw, unfiltered emotion. While digital realm doesn’t necessarily disappear, the balance between the real and digital world begins to return as people start to see the value of authenticity over curation.