Off Fleak: Family and Technology

by Mary Liza Hartong and Andrew Kingsley | 1/14/16 9:18pm

“Ugh, my family is so stupid and old-fashioned,” laments Aaron Fleak after spending New Years back home in Arkansas. “What losers! They wouldn’t know a hashtag from a hashbrown, BuzzFeed from a buzz cut or a sepia filter from a Brita filter. I’m surrounded by animals.”

Aaron’s mom, Sharon Fleak, bursts into Aaron’s room without knocking. Knocking leads to privacy and privacy leads to mischief, as Sharon likes to say.

“Aaron, honey! I just set up my LinkedIn. I have to say, a lot of handsome young men have been looking at my profile,” Sharon beams.

“Wait, what? Mom, you’re 55 and married. Why are they messaging you?”

“Oh you know, they’re harmless. They just say things like, ‘I want you to glaze my donut’ and ‘#$*@ your &#*$.’”

“Mom, that doesn’t sound like LinkedIn…” Aaron frowns.

“Honey, I know business has changed a lot since I was your age. It’s an online world. I get it. His resume was just a picture of his ding-dong. And it wasn’t a Little Debbie Snack Cake, I’ll tell you that. Maybe I should post a picture of my—“

“Stop! Stop! Give me your phone!” Aaron grabs Sharon’s iPhone 2 from her mom jeans. “Mom, this is Grindr! You can’t use this!”

“What? Sweetie, the internet is for everyone. Martha Stewart always says, ‘Preheat your oven to 350, surf the web, and your cookies will be a golden brown!’”

“This is for gay guys looking for quick sex. Not for flower arrangers like you.”

“But I did notice a networking option at the bottom under ‘Looking For.’ One gentleman said he was looking for a nice, pink rosebud. I have plenty of those at KaBloom.”

“Mom, I’m deleting this. I’ll set you up on the real LinkedIn.”

“Before you do, just tell the nice man his rosebud arrives tomorrow. He ordered it express shipping. After you’re done, you need to help grandpa with his Amazon. He’s been having trouble purchasing his new walker.”


Aaron logs onto Facebook and sees his newsfeed flooded with his grandpa Jason Fleak’s recent statuses.

“New walker.”

“New walker for me.”

“Give me a new walker, internet.”

Aaron calls his grandpa urgently. Hid grandpa picks up.

“Is this the Nigerian prince again? I sent you the checks last week. But don’t cash them ‘til the end of the month. My pension money doesn’t kick in until then.”

“Grandpa it’s me, Aaron.”

“That’s what the Nigerian prince said!”

“Listen, you’re not using Facebook right. It’s not Amazon. They’re different websites. One’s for photos and the other is for buying stuff when you’re too lazy to go to a store.”

Grandpa updates his status: “The Nigerian prince says I’m using Amazon wrong. And he didn’t ask for money this time. He’s growing up.”

“Grandpa, please stop posting. You’re using Facebook. Go to, and buy your walker there. I just sent you a blue link. Click it.”

Grandpa updates his status: “See ya later slow pokes. I’m heading to the Amazon. See you in three months. I hear it’s rainy there.”

Grandpa updates his status: “New raincoat for me.”

Aaron hangs up the phone and the desire to educate his elders.


Aaron walks into his dad’s office. He breathes easy knowing his father, Ashton Fleak, a Google employee, surely knows how to navigate social media.

“What’s hangin,’ dad?”

“Oh you know, just looking up some things on Google. You know, my employer?”

Aaron chuckles warmly, reassured by his father. He returns to his room and checks his Twitter feed. He laughs at a series of tweets from last night:

“Strip clubs near me.”

“ATM near me.”

“How to get rid of suspicious rash.”

He notices the handle @Ashtonoffun and drops his phone in shock. He’s about to knock on the door, but remembers his mother’s motto and instead barges in.

“‘Sup son? What’s goin on?” Ashton asks nervously, dropping a tube of ointment.

“Not much. Hey have you checked your Twitter feed lately? I think someone is trolling you.”

Ashton stands up and chuckles, putting an ointment covered hand on Aaron’s shoulder.

“Now son, you’re 20. There are no such things as trolls.”

“What? Look, dad, someone tweeted about you going to a strip club last night.”

Ashton pauses, then mechanically says, “Yes. Yes. Someone has been trolling up my feed. Let me just delete that.”

Ashton updates his Twitter feed, “How to delete your Google posts.”

“Dad, you just did it again. This is Twitter, not Google. How do you not know what Google is? You work there!”

“I just do the Doodles,” Ashton admits bashfully.

“Noooooooo!” Aaron cries out, which rouses him out of his nightmare. He looks around his bedroom in a panic. All is back to normal. “Phew, it was all a dream,” Aaron says, relieved.

“What was?” asks the Nigerian prince, who is sharing Aaron’s bed. Aaron faints.