If you haven’t caught any episodes of Netlfix’s series Black Mirror, you might want to check some out—especially if you like sci-fi and/or like being disturbed. Ironically, Netflix might be considered part of our “black mirror,” given how hard they are working to keep our eyes glued to our screens (hello, autoplay!).
When being asked about streaming competitors such as Amazon in an interview, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, said, “You know, think about it, when you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night. We’re competing with sleep, on the margin. And so, it’s a very large pool of time.”
Yikes! Thanks for your brutal honesty, Mr. Hastings! In true capitalist fashion, Netflix cares more about their ratings and earnings and doesn’t give a flip about our well-being.
Within the Black Mirror series, most episodes are about current or near/possible future tech going wrong. One episode that hit home, in particular, was Episode 1 of Season 3, entitled “Nosedive.”
If you watch it, you might rightly fret: Is this the future of social media?
Social Comparison out of Control
The “Nosedive” episode of Black Mirror depicts a plausibly bleak version of our not-too-distant future if (when?) social media gets (further!) out of control. In the episode, people can rate others for basically any social interaction. It’s like Yelp on steroids.
People become obsessed with their social credit scores, because the scores directly affect their social status. So, each person can rate others based on small interactions, such as buying a cup of coffee. At the coffee shop, a customer can immediately use his or her phone to rate the barista, but the barista can also rate the customer.
Then, a person’s ratings (1-5 stars) can affect their lives in a variety of ways, such as where one can live. For example, if a person doesn’t have a rating higher than 4.3, they would not be allowed to live in a condo in an exclusive area. If this is a possible future of social media, then Houston, we have a problem!
Isolation Through Superficial Relationship
In “Nosedive,” people are still driven to seek relationships, but they do so to achieve an ulterior motive. They only seek the “likes”—the high ratings. They want the high ratings so that they can then gain access to privileges that they wouldn’t otherwise get.
This leads to relationships being extremely superficial, because they are merely a means to an end. It’s like a never-ending popularity contest. Everyone is constantly hustling to solicit positive reviews from others. There is no concern for real, human connection.
The aggregate effect is that everyone lives in this warped reality. No one is genuine. Everyone is a narcissist and acts “fake.” Everyone suffers from living in this system, but they don’t realize that there’s another way to live. It’s the only reality they know.
Social Media Now?
Whether it is Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, or Instagram, we are all caught up in providing and soliciting reviews. Many teens and others take countless selfies and use photo editing apps to do just that.
For instance, in the documentary Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age, one of the tween girls profiled became quite proficient in digital photography. Unfortunately, all of her photography centered around trying to get “perfect” selfies to post on social media!
If you watch “Nosedive,” you will probably be a little repulsed. This episode hits a little to close to home! Hopefully, we don’t go down that dark (or black) road.
The Future of Social Media—Where Are We Going?
Alarmingly though, we might be doing just that. China, in a truly Orwellian move, has started to use a “social credit score” to reward and punish its citizens. Will other countries begin to follow suit?
We must remember that our happiness depends upon the quality of our relationships, not how many followers or “likes” we have. Those do give us a short burst of pleasure, but, like eating junk food, the positive feelings quickly fade. And, like eating junk food, there are long-term health consequences to being consumed by the pursuit of obtaining likes and followers.
I don’t think social media is inherently bad, but as Shakespeare wrote, there can be “too much of a good thing.” So, we must work to ensure that we don’t see our own reflection in the black mirror too often. Let’s heed the warning of “Nosedive,” and invest in what really matters to our contentment and happiness—our in-person relationships.