Let’s hope the future of social media isn’t this black
I finally caught up on the Netflix show that everyone’s been talking about: Black Mirror. Most episodes are about current or near/possible future tech going wrong. One episode that hit home, in particular, “Nosedive” (episode 1, season 3). After I watched it, I started to fret about the future of social media — and rightly so.
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.
These ratings from others directly affect social status. Each person can rate others based on small interactions on a scale of 1-5 stars. In one scene, a customer at a coffee shop uses her phone to rate the barista as the barista also rates her. These “likes” translate into a person’s value and affects their lives in a variety of ways. For example, a person’s ratings determine where they can live. Characters that don’t have a rating higher than 4.3, are restricted from living in a condo in an exclusive area. If this is a possible future of social media, Houston, we have a problem!
Isolation through superficial relationships
I previously blogged about how most of our happiness comes from deep, meaningful relationships. 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 they wouldn’t otherwise get.
This leads to relationships being very 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.
So, everyone lives in this warped reality. No one is real. Everyone is a narcissist. 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?
We are all a bit review obsessed. It may be a review on a movie on Rottentomatoes or a comment (cough cough, review) on a selfie.
Many people (especially teens) take countless selfies and use photo editing apps to perfect them. For instance, in the documentary Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age, a tween girl became quite proficient in digital photography. Unfortunately, all of her photography centered around trying to get “perfect” selfies to post on social media!
The Future Of Social Media — Where Are We Going!?
If you watch the episode Nosedive of Black Mirror, you will probably be a little repulsed. The episode hits a little too close to home! Hopefully, we don’t go down that dark (or Black) road, but it’s really beyond argument that we are moving in that direction. For example, 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?
Remember our happiness depends upon the quality of our relationships, not how many followers or likes we have. Follows and likes do give us short bursts 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 caught up in social media and obtaining likes.
I don’t think social media is inherently bad but, as the old saying goes, too much of a good thing isn’t good! So, we must work to ensure that we don’t see our reflection in the Black Mirror. We don’t want that bleak depiction in Black Mirror to be the future of social media. Let’s heed the warning of Nosedive.