I jack into the metaverse, escaping the grime and drizzle of Neo-Southam for brighter worlds. But even here among the endless virtual cityscapes, I feel the isolation creep in. Millions of people logged in from around the globe, yet we slip past each other, not even making eye contact. Anonymous avatars, anonymous lives.

The non-fungible tokens and digital swag everyone flaunts seem so meaningless when all I crave is real human understanding. But where to find it? People cling to their online cliques and tribes; algorithms feeding them more of what they already think and believe. No one talks anymore across divides of ideology or experience. Too risky, too messy.

So I unplug again and again, hoping to rekindle that feeling of connection that first lured me to the promise of the net. In rainy back alleys, I search for a sense of community among outcasts and outsiders like me. I listen to their stories while warming my hands on barrel fires, finding glimmers of shared longing that cross any divide.

I know the fragmentation and polarisation infecting societies and networks can feel impossible to cure. But what if we started listening to each other again? Not arguing or judging, just listening. What if we sought first to understand, not accuse or attack? I may be just one glitch in the system, but I still believe acts of compassion can reboot even the most crashed-out worlds. One conversation, one human connection resuscitated at a time, as I try my clumsy best to stitch our fates together again. Before we all fracture beyond repair in our lonely virtual bubbles.


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