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Black Mirror is Getting Into Online Dating and Things Look Grim

Hide your phones.

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, brisk walks and warm drinks and the seemingly imminent return of everyone’s favorite techno-horror television show, the eerily-recognizable world that is Netflix’s Black Mirror.

The anthology series tackles topics related to privacy, relationships, parenting and more in an age of not-so-distant technology: the devices and world represented in the show are only a step or two away from the world we inhabit and the gadgets we keep in our pockets today. Most of the episodes are terrifying not because of their foreignness, but because of the many recognizable parallels to life today: what it means to reconstruct a life based solely on your social media presence, the murky intersection between politics and the online world, or what happens when an emphasis on people “liking” you runs amok.

And the newly released trailers for the show’s fourth season (Netflix is keeping the exact release date a secret) suggests the newest episodes won’t be any different.

One episode teased seems to hit a bit too close to home for many, as Meagan Fredette writes for Refinery 29, by venturing into the world of online dating.

The trailer for “Hang the DJ,” (a reference to the song “Panic,” by the Smiths, Fredette points out) shows a prospective couple meeting for dinner who apparently met through a cult-like dating app that may or may not be called “The System.” Over wine and food, they each hold a handheld device (from the trailer it’s not exactly clear what the device is) that begins counting down: they have 12 hours until their “expiration date,” after which, presumably, their fledgling romance expires. During glimpses of the date, the trailer flashes images that seem like recruitment ads for the System, reading “Join the System” and “Love the System.” At one point, the trailer cuts to a scene from a wedding, where the man who was on the date watches a happy couple toast to the app saying, “It really does work!”

The trailer is under a minute long, but poses some fascinating questions about the role of technology, algorithms and surveillance in our dating lives. Fredette notes that this has social implications too: “Does the couple fall in love because they know their expiration date? Would they have fallen in love without it?”

The implications of an app that counts down your time together is a fascinating thought experiment. But people are likely spooked by this trailer not because of the questions it poses about love, but about how closely it parallels the technology-fueled world of dating today: algorithms already play Yenta for a lot of people. And the countdown depicted in the trailer could be seen as a glorified version of the dating app-slash-networking service Bumble that “expires” connections if the woman doesn’t make the first move after a day. (Naturally, men can show they’re “especially interested in her by using the daily 24-hour extend feature,” according to Bumble’s website.)

And this episode seems to fall under a larger umbrella of Black Mirror’s topics—in a nutshell, the quantified life gone rogue. What happens in a world where the metrics we use to measure, improve and learn from become the guiding force for our behavior? For our love lives and relationships? And what if that’s already true for many?

Read more here.  

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