Implications for the future of social media
I finally caught up on the Netflix show that everyone’s been talking about: Black Mirror. After watching Nosedive (episode 1, season 3), I started to fret about the future of social media — and rightly so.
Social Comparison Out Of Control
Nosedive portrays a world in the not-too-distant future in which 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!
The episode depicts a plausibly bleak version of our future if social media gets (further!) out of control. In my last blog, I discussed how social media leads to greater social isolation. However, the dystopian future depicted in Nosedive doesn’t portray social isolation in a strict sense. However, it does show a version of social isolation that comes from having only extremely superficial relationships.
It’s All About Deep Connections
I blogged previously 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; it’s like middle school on steroids. 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 to 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.
Remember our happiness depends upon the depths of our relationships, not the number of them. It’s not based upon how many likes we get either. Likes and comments 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.