Although intended to be a fictional TV show, Black Mirror’s episode Nosedive is not so far off from the world which we live in today. As a little recap, Lacie Pound lives in a society completely reliant on ratings. Everyone has a rating out of 5 and the higher your rating, the more elite you are. The characters in the episode are able to rate and see everyone’s statistics in their direct vision and rate one another instantaneously. In this episode, Lacie tries to attain a 4.5 or higher in order to receive a discount on a new apartment she is wishing to rent. She practices expressions in the mirror, takes pleasing photos of her food and tries to be as friendly as possible with everyone she interacts with. When Lacie gets a call from an old friend asking her to be maid of honor at her wedding, Lacie couldn’t be more thrilled to accompany this high ranked friend at a high profile wedding. She thought this would for sure boost her ranking but everything leading up to the wedding backfires and her rating keeps decreasing.
This dystopian society that Lacie lives in is not so far off from our own reality. We are so consumed with likes and social media and yearn for popularity on so many virtual levels – popularity and social acceptance is determined by how many likes you get on a picture. I know that personally I have had many conversations that have contained the phrases “she gets so many likes”, “ugh I barely got any likes” or “I’m not liking her picture”. Although we don’t have actual ratings like in Nosedive, we do have hierarchy of social status. For example, celebrities generally get the most likes of anyone and even get paid for some posts. These would be classified as the “5.0”’s in our society. Then would be those who are “Instagram Famous”, followed by ordinary people who just have a large social following and then your average Joe.
These ratings are not the only things that are comparable to our reality. In the show, the characters are able to see each other’s ratings overlaid in their direct line of vision. Google already has their Google Glass spectacles, which project imagery into your line of vision – just like in Nosedive. There have been so many studies and developments about creating these lenses as contacts to possess virtual reality at your fingertips.
After watching this episode, I am terrified of what is to come of our future if we continue to move down this path of social gratification. We are so consumed with the amount of likes we get and “doing it for the Insta” that we are more present in the virtual world than we are in the present. Younger generations are growing up with this technology and mentality that social media likes are everything – and generations to come will be just as obsessed, if not more. As terrifying as it is, we are moving on a path towards the society in Nosedive whether we would like to admit it or not.
Virtual Communities are a fairly new concept that came along with Web 2.0. Gone are the days of meeting a group in person to discuss mutual interests because now we can do all of that from the comfort of our own home. No longer do people have to feel scared to express their feelings in a safe place because there are so many platforms dedicated to ensuring this. People all across the world are able to communicate with strangers that they otherwise may not have even gotten the chance to know.
One virtual community in particular that came to mind is a secret Facebook group Pantsuit Nation that a relative added me to during last year’s election. As you can tell by the title, the group is dedicated to Hillary Clinton supporters and has amassed nearly 4 million members to date. What started as a group for supporters to come and feel safe has turned into a phenomenon. The group consists of several posts a day where people share intimate stories and photos as a therapeutic method during troubling times in their lives. Since all of the members share the mutual support of Hillary Clinton, the members are empathetic to one another and support each other as members.
When examining what type of virtual community Pantsuit Nation would fall under, it is clear that it possesses characteristics that make it a mesh of many different types. Humphreys refers to an imagined community as one that is bound by belonging to one community or nation. The members of this type of community discuss news and have mutual feelings on controversial issues – just as the members of Pantsuit Nation do. Her description of a subculture community is also applicable here because that type of community is described as a small grouping within a culture that shares the same beliefs, norms, practices etc. The last type of community that Pantsuit Nation could be categorized as is an audience community. In this type of community, the group is formed around a specific product. Although the group has evolved into a safe place for people to share their feelings and stories, the group initially started as a group in support of Hillary Clinton – and one could argue that Clinton herself is a product (Humphreys 173 – 174).
Though I am more of a passive member or lurker in this group, I still see posts and have a general understanding of how the group functions as a virtual community. Since there are so many people in the group, it is hard to pinpoint some of the other roles such as information gatherers, trolls and newbies, but one role in particular that is important in this group is the role of the gatekeeper. In this group, the gatekeeper roles consist of those members who are admins and a new feature that I didn’t know was available as moderator. These individuals are responsible for keeping the peace within the group and vetting posts to make sure they are appropriate and will resonate with the audience before they allow them to be posted. With almost 4 million members, these moderators have a huge task of reading several posts a day and are counted on for their diligence and commitment to the group – just as a gatekeeper would in any other group. One other important role within this group is the sock puppet. Humphreys describes this role as someone who has joined the group under an alias. These members are not creating sock puppets for mischievous reasons, rather they are creating these alias’ in order to shield their real identity when sharing a story. In a group with millions of members, a neighbor of theirs might see a personal story that they would rather not be linked back to them (Humphreys 177 – 179).
(This is not meant to be a political post, just sharing what I see as the perfect example of an online community! I am also not sharing screenshots from the group in order to preserve the privacy of its members.)
Hillary Clinton – http://gph.is/2cOpttH
We’re all in this together – http://gph.is/2ddiMlg
Humphreys, Ashlee. Social Media: Enduring Principles. New York: Oxford UP, 2016. Print.