Black Mirror

I feel like I’ve arrived at an amazing party that people have been at for hours – I’m jumping around saying ‘Wow, this is great!’ But everyone is staring at me with masked disdain, as if to say – ‘Yeah, we know, we’ve been having a great time for ages!’

For the first time ever I watched an episode of Black Mirror last night.  It was so random – Series 3, Episode 1 – it was called ‘Nosedive’.  I’d heard of Black Mirror but I’d always been too frightened to watch it because for some reason I thought it was a horror. Each episode is a self-contained short story, a bit like Roald Dahl’s, ‘The Tales of the Unexpected’ – but set in the future.

You know when you watch or read something and it stays with you? That’s what happened to me with this show.  We watched one episode and I was blown away, so then we watched 2 more episodes, this time (like normal people), starting from the beginning.   All 3 episodes were so different but so clever, each commentating on society now and where it looks like it is heading in the not so distant future.

Out of the 3 episodes that I’ve seen so far, it would be difficult to choose a favourite – but for now I am going to write about ‘Nosedive’.

I’ve always wanted to write this….SPOILER ALERT! (But it’s not really because I won’t ruin the ending for you!)

It’s set in a polite, perfect American world, where everyone is extremely polite to each other.  It’s a sickly, unnatural, saccharine atmosphere – and then you understand why.  Each person has clear silicon chips installed on their eyes (a bit like contact permanent contact lenses), that allow them to see the digital ‘rating’ that everyone has.  In this world, people are rated between 0 – 5.  The scores are approval ratings which people give you based on your photos (similar to the number of likes on the three giants – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), but people are also able to rate you positively or negatively, based on how smiley or polite you are when you speak to them.  Say if you accidentally knock into someone, they can give you negative points, which brings your social rating down.

The elite are those who have an approval rating of 4.5 or above.  These people call the shots. They have access to the best accommodation at a special discount; first access to hospital treatments; they can cut through queues at airports etc – you get the picture, these people are the people you want to be.

The episode focuses on our protagonist, Lacie Pound.  A 4.2.  So you know that she’s doing really well – and works oh so hard to be a 4.2 – but she needs to be a 4.5 to get to live in the apartment blocks that she wants to.  And so the episode is about her struggle to get those extra 0.3  points so that she is able to make her dreams come true. But at the back of your mind, you already know that the episode is called ‘Nosedive’.

Although I’ve written ‘SPOILER ALERT’….I don’t want to say what happens because I think it’s an amazing episode that you should watch. Whilst watching, at first I was trying to being accustomed to this new world, then after that, I spent the remainder of the episode squirming and cringing,  internally screaming at Lacie Pound with good advice, being the best friend that she so desperately needed.

Like I said, we watched 3 episodes last night, and certainly a common thread that ran through each episode was how we are slaves to desperately wanting and needing approval. Even if some of the things that we end up doing leads to self loathing…or worse still self-destruction.

If we leave Twitter out of this for now – because that is a different beast. But if we focus on FB and Instagram – how many people write something meaningful – and the likes are limited, but a put a pretty picture up and suddenly the likes pour in like gold.  Then that rush – that glorious rush – people have liked ME, people approve of ME. So what do you do?  Like an addict you crave that approval again – so you don’t write something meaningful – you know your crowd, you won’t put something that’s real – the crowd don’t want that. You’re social media savvy, you know how this works – pretty picture – that’s what works.  That’ll give you the likes and the approval that you crave.  Pretty picture. Fun picture.  Fabulous life picture.  That’ll give you the approval ratings that you need.  That’ll improve your social standing .

It’s not a judgement.  It’s just how the world is going. Sad, but true.  Perhaps we need to take a step back, look in the mirror – and decide to be real?  No one has the perfect life they present on FB and Instagram.  You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re fooling anyone by what you present; and if you are naive enough to believe that what people present on FB and Instagram is true – then wake up.

We have a need for more programmes like Black Mirror to be created – that actually holds up a mirror to how the world is – or is heading – and we question whether we like what we see.  And if we don’t like what we see……….?

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