The season opener hits hard on how we present ourselves to the world. Are we really who we show ourselves to be online?
Two weeks ago, I went to Ben Gurion Airport to meet a relative returning to Israel from Finland. While waiting at Terminal 3, I saw a teenage girl, about 15 years old, take out her smartphone, arrange her hair, pick up her hand, and try to take a selfie of herself on arrival. The first picture was apparently unsuccessful, and the second, third, and fourth ones also did not create the desired effect. She spent a long time varying the angle, deleting the picture and smiling again until she finally got the perfect check-in snap.
Your feed and you
How many times have you found yourself staging a picture before putting it on the social networks? How many times did you move the plate to where the background was the most flattering and the light was better? How many times did you move nearby objects to get the perfect picture?
Your feed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat is not really you; it is how you want people to see you.
You select pictures in advance and share a very specific experience, while completely ignoring other ones. Your profile on the social networks is actually the utopian you, the way you want people to think of you: witty, good-looking, joyful, happy, smart, and ethical. The less complimentary, more human, and embarrassing events are usually weeded out.
How many likes did you get for your engagement ring?
What if the number of likes you got on the social networks determined whether you could enter a certain party, live in a certain area, go out with a certain people, or get the job you want?
That’s exactly the way it is in the imaginary world that appears in the first episode of the new season of Black Mirror. Every person gets a rating from 0 to 5 from either acquaintances or complete strangers. Every person you come in contact with can give you a mark for every encounter, picture, or anything you have shared. Ordering coffee from a waiter is an interaction, as in you rate the waiter, and he rates you back. Did someone sit next to you on the bus and exchange a word or two with you? You rate him, and he will rate you.
Your popularity index will determine your status. A higher rating means that you will get into a desirable club that will give you access to a higher quality of life. Do you have a 4.5 rating? You can live in more prestigious places, get into more desirable places, and order what are considered classier services. Your rating of others will be worth more too. Do you have a low mark? The entry door to your job won’t open, and you will be denied access to certain areas.
The idea is very reminiscent of a concept encountered in the 2011 film “In Time,” starring Justin Timberlake. Here, though, there is much more potential for social mobility.
Social supervision in the social networks era
In a situation in which everyone is constantly rated by everyone, a rather artificial order is created. You want everyone to give you a high rating all the time, so you are careful to be very nice to everyone all the time. There is almost nothing real in this world; everything is calculated. Everything is measured according to the number of likes you get. All that matters is how to look better to others, rather than who you really are. But is this necessarily bad?
Shaming is a social tool that creates especially strong social supervision. It is violent, biased, based on less than the full picture, and can lead to a tragic end that in my opinion should be condemned. At the same time, it deters quite a few people who are worried that their despicable deeds will become public knowledge, while on the other hand providing the multitudes with an extremely strong tool for publicizing wrongs that would otherwise result in no response, enforcement, or handling.
In a world in which everyone rates everyone, it is more worthwhile for everyone to be polite to each other. Otherwise, their rating, and consequently their way of life, will be negatively affected. This tool already exists today to a more limited extent, and is quite effective: the rating of hotels by TripAdvisor, the rating of guests on Airbnb, customers’ ratings on Zap or eBay, and innumerable other examples.
Third season, first of six episodes
Black Mirror is a British television series that was first produced by British Channel 4 in 2011. It included a number of episodes presenting a disturbing fictional reality. It is especially thought provoking, and arouses much criticism of our current way of life. In many cases, it includes a portrayal of futuristic technologies and episodes unrelated to each other dealing with completely different issues. It is actually better not to call the episodes of Black Mirror episodes, because they are completely separate creations with a different plot, different actors, and sometimes even different directors and script writers. That is also one of its advantages: every episode is completely independent. The chronological order and seasons therefore have no meaning. Just start watching.
The series has so far gone through two seasons of three episodes each, plus one more special episode. Netflix bought the rights to the series from British Channel 4 in 2015, and has produced a third season with 12 episodes, six of which became available for viewing four days ago.
If you haven’t yet seen the previous episodes, they are worthy of thorough study and analysis at universities. I warmly recommend the series. If you have seen the previous seasons, you may be glad to know that in addition to the six episodes that have already been released, six more episodes will be released in the future as part of the same season.
Watch: The promo for the new season of Black Mirror