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Mirror Mirror

Gunnar De Winter was born in a small city in a small country. Now, he finds himself stuck between biology and philosophy, both of which are realms he enjoys exploring through fictional fieldwork. Beware, he occasionally attempts tweeting @evolveon and blogging at gunnardewinter.wordpress.com.
She splashed some water in her face and stared at the mirror.
Good morning, Toni.
Fecal matter analyzed. Microbiome composition within established parameters. Present families....
"Spare me the details."
Shared on Fit-o-Sphere.
Toni bundled and secured her black hair in a tight ponytail. Data analysis had shown this was by far the most successful look for freelance fitness and health gurus.
Nutritional extraction efficiency calculated. Determining caloric needs for the day_
"Just send it to my lens."
Shared on Fit-o-Sphere.
A ping reverberated through her skull. Her daily calorie allotment had arrived, complete with suggested recipes and blinklinks to the relevant Fit-o-Sphere_ accounts.
She sighed. Physically, she was fine. Otherwise the mirror would have picked it up and alerted her. Yet she felt tired. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Come on, girl, nothing a good workout can't fix."
Kitchen alert: Slightly warmed lemon water ready. Spinach, kale, and chia smoothie ready in 10... 9...
She left the bathroom and put on her outfit for the day, ensuring that the sponsors' labels were visible from all angles. The top and tight pants clung to her toned body. The smart fabric carefully registered skin conduction, heart rate, and other physiological parameters. All to be shared, of course.
Her lens automatically photographed her breakfast. The jar of water and the green smoothie were arranged so that the lighting would be perfect. She was unusually hungry. Both fluids disappeared quickly. But not before the photos had earned >2k likes.
Calories calculated and added towards daily goal. The ghost in her mirror had arrived in its second home, her lens.
Shared on Fit-o-Sphere.
There still was a nagging hole in her stomach, so she grabbed a protein bar from the box sent to her by a company angling for her endorsement. Toni made sure to turn around the bar, exposing the brand name on the shiny wrapper to her followers. Plug time. Each click turned into a trickle on her cloud credit account. And many trickles made a flood of virtcoins.
"Hey guys and girls, hope you're enjoying my day so far. Did you like my breakfast? I mean, it's so good. You have to try it. But I wanted a little extra this morning, so I went for one of these triple P bars. They're really good for you. Low in saturated fat, and lots of fiber and protein. Only for a hundred-and-fifty calories! Order them with my code, and you'll get twenty percent off."
She ate the bar.
Calories added to daily count. Sugar is fairly high.
Shared on Fit-o-Sphere.
She wanted to shout at her lens to shut up, but that would be recorded. And while a rant or breakdown every now and then was good for the number of views, an overload had the opposite effect. Her next bad day wasn't scheduled until two weeks from now.
So, time to smile and perform her morning workout.
"Okay dolls and dudes, this is a new HIIT workout I developed. You can get the details and other routines in my new e-guide. It's discounted for another week, so don't wait too long to order it."
Once upon a time, she had frequented regular gyms. Now, she had her own fitness room. Perfectly attuned lighting. Strategically placed mirrors. No interlopers screwing up the video. During the training circuit, she tried her best to avoid shots that showed less than perfectly positioned body parts. Skin folds and flabs, although unavoidable when you exercise, always lead to discussion and body shaming. And the less editing she had to do, the better.
Twenty minutes later, she scrolled though the footage, still panting. Looking good is hard work. A touch-up here, a streak of muscle-emphasizing shadow there, and done.
Shared on Fit-o-Sphere.
"Hi, my sweet Tonio's and Tonettes. Did you like the workout? Twenty minutes is all you need to get in the best shape of your life. You should really give it a try." "Buy my new e-guide"-links snuck their way onto the lenses of Toni's followers. Not too overpowering, but persistent. Repetition rather than flamboyance, she had found, was the key to generate the highest possible revenue.
"Anyway, I'm heading out for lunch with a friend of mine. Maybe you know her. And if you don't, you should. It's Collie from Clean&Lean." An affiliate link swam over the field of vision of her followers. And, of course, a reciprocal link would swoosh across the lenses of Collie's followers. Networking was another key.
Their lunch plates in VegaBar were painstakingly arranged and positioned before being broadcast on their followers' feeds. Calories and macronutrients were gleaned from the bar's cloud-account.
Shared on Fit-o-Sphere.
"Wow, that was great. You guys really have to visit VegaBar. It's cheap, healthy, and so yummy." Another affiliate link bombarded her followers who were all too keen to emulate Toni. Perfect, beautiful, happy Toni.
Back home, she visited the bathroom and let her muscles relax during the few moments of peace she found there.
Welcome home, Toni.
Hormonal analysis complete. Calories and macros adjusted. Doctor informed.
Toni frowned. "What?"
Pregnancy is approximately five weeks along.
"What!?" Five weeks. What happened five weeks ago? She only remembered bits and pieces. The breakdown. The guy. The waking up. The self-loathing.
Pregnant? She can't be pregnant right now. It doesn't fit in her business plan. She has to follow the whole "boyfriend-move-marriage-happy announcement" scheme that has been set up as template. But she can't...? Or can she? No one has to know, right?
Shared on Fit-o-Sphere.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017


In the past decade or so, the nature of celebrity has changed. Instagram, Youtube, and consorts, give everyone a shot at fifteen seconds of fame. Exhibit a? The profusion of self-proclaimed health and fitness gurus. Don't get me wrong, many of them do it with genuine passion and the best intentions, and some of them actually provide sound advice and tips (sometimes). But there is a darker side as well: the constant pressure to amass and maintain followers, the need to conform and reinforce a certain image, and unsound information that can do more harm than good.

In this tiny tale, life-sharing and image are contrasted with privacy and what goes on beyond the facade. It is neither judgment nor reproach. It's a cliche, but we are all mere actors in life. Embracing yourself is something we all struggle with, some more than others, and social media has an impact on this, for better or worse.

All this aside, I hope you enjoyed the story and sincerely thank you for reading it.

- Gunnar De Winter

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