. At the urging of my good friend and colleague, Dr. Jon Lasser (and co-author of our upcoming book, tentatively titled Tech Happy Life: Effective Parenting in a Digital World), I finally caught the Netflix’s Black Mirror episode entitled Nosedive. It’s episode 1 of season 3, and it’s worth checking out. 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 future if social media gets (further!) out of control. In my last blog, I discussed how data indicate that social media use is leading to greater social isolation. But the dystopian version of the 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.
This isn’t a total spoiler, but it is a bit of “preview” of the episode. Nosedive portrays a world in the not-too-distant future in which most people are obsessed with getting ratings from others because it directly affects 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, Houston, we have a problem!
Isolation Through Superficial Relationship
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 that 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.
The aggregate effect is that everyone lives in this warped reality. No one is real. Everyone is a narcissist. Everyone suffers for 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 rottentomatoes, Urban Spoon, 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!
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. This 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.
We must remember that 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. 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 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.
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