Black Mirror Presents: My Nightmare

About three months ago, I was talking to a coworker about an episode of Black Mirror (the one with Jon Hamm, I know you know the episode). I had only ever seen the show once, but Jon Hamm truly turned me into a Black Mirror fan, and I desperately needed to know which episodes to follow up with. My coworker replied, “Whatever you do, skip the next one, Season 3, Episode 1. I had to turn it off mid way because it frightened me too much.” As someone with zero tolerance for jump-scares and gore, I asked her what the episode was about so I could avoid it. To my surprise, she responded, “Social media.”


As recommended, I held off on watching “Nosedive.” But after learning the episode was required for class, I became re-interested, figuring it would seem more captivating after a semester submerged in social media. I was not disappointed. “Nosedive” was simultaneously unbelievable and relatable. It was fascinating, but unnerving. It hit on anxieties most millennials face every day when engaging in the social media realm – and cranked them up 10 notches.

That feeling of awkwardness when you post an Instagram photo, and it takes 3 whole minutes for anyone to like it. That judgment you make when someone follows you on Twitter, and you quickly stalk your own timeline to ensure your past posts were funny enough. That envy you feel when someone posts the most aesthetically pleasing candid ever, and you realize your own “selfie” game is weak. That pressure to take interesting pictures in any situation, because otherwise, how would anyone know you left your bed?


Black Mirror addressed all of this uneasiness surrounding social media that no one seems to talk about.  Why the taboo? Because Twitter is hilarious, we insist. Instagram is so pretty. Facebook keeps us connected. We don’t want to admit that a platform built around sociability can makes us feel supremely miserable and self conscious. Especially when your timeline is filled with 5 photos of Victoria’s Secret models, 7 photos of beautiful foods you can’t recreate, and 19 photos of acquaintances living their “best life” while you sit in class.  But, as “Nosedive” pointed out, none of this is real.

Take the coffee shop scene for example. Ordering a latte she didn’t like and a cookie she didn’t want, our 4.2 friend Lacie snapped a pic to boost her rating, then discarded the breakfast. She proceeded to lie to her loyal feed followers by captioning the combination “Heaven.”  I took this personally, because there’s nothing worse than a bad breakfast recommendation. Besides, between a $6.00 specialty coffee and a $4.00 pastry, Lacie spent approximately $10.00 to lose her freakin’ mind.


Black Mirror has always prided itself on being able to effectively straddle the line between fiction and a realistic future. I personally feel as though our society should heed these story lines as warnings, as opposed to simply entertainment. This social media obsessed world that “Nosedive” presents does not seem too far off from our current daily interactions. Toning back on the favorites, likes, and ratings could benefit human cultural overall, creating more authentic face-to-face interactions. I, for one, could not survive in a world that required rating every single interaction – my thumbs (not to mention my brain) would simply become too tired.



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Creating Communities on Twitter

In “Virtual Communities,” Ashlee Humphreys discusses the phenomenon of online communities and their characteristics. While reading, I couldn’t help but picture Twitter as the social media platform in question – although no specific platform was identified by name. While Facebook serves the purpose connecting with current friends, I view Twitter as a space for building a community around those with similar interests.


Humphrey mentions that online communities can be found for any and every interest – this is true on Twitter. But how do different types of Twitter groups showcase the three characteristics of virtual communities in various ways? Three recent and relevant community examples come to mind: the PUSM class, Dakota Access Pipeline activists, and Grammy viewers. Each group’s Twitter presence displays different characteristics on the surface – one an established class of academics, one a social movement, and one a live event audience. However, each exhibit consciousness of kind, shared rituals and traditions, and moral responsibility in an appropriate way for their specific community.

Consciousness of kind is most obviously communicated through hashtags. Hashtags are mindfully created in order to identify groups and establish mutual recognition. Our PUSM class has #somediapitt, Dakota Access Pipeline activists have #NoDAPL, and the Grammys use #GRAMMYs each year. Twitter users recognize those who employ these hashtags as belonging to the particular community, while group members use the hashtag to view tweets of fellow members.


Shared rituals and traditions also differ depending on the community. For example, while PUSM has two Twitter scribes that comment on class every Tuesday and Thursday, members of the Grammy community typically only tweet one day per year. The volume of tweets is much higher, though (I admit, as a Grammy fanatic myself, I tweeted 10 times over the length of the award show this year.) Therefore, it has become a ritual for PUSM classmates to tweet at least four times per week about an intellectual matter in the same way that it has become a ritual for Grammy viewers to tweet multiple times once a year about celebrity performances

Finally, moral responsibility surfaces when members of these communities support and defend one another. Tweeters of the No DAPL community found virtual ways to rally around those fighting for their water. By retweeting threads created by protesters, activists were able to quickly spread videos and testimonies of unfair police treatment occurring at the DAPL site. This effectively raised concern among citizen outside of the group, which in turn increased members and support. In the context of a much less vital situation, Adele also experienced moral support after forgetting lyrics to her Grammy performance and asking for a “do over” on live television. Viewers and fellow celebrities took the responsibility of defending the songstress by publically praising her efforts.


Although very different groups in nature, PUSM, DAPL activists, and Grammy viewers all implement characteristics of virtual communities. Some features overlap, like the universal use of hashtags. However, it appears that most groups adjust these characteristics in order to suit their own unique community and further their interests.




Humphreys, Ashlee. “Chapter 11: Virtual Communities.” Social Media: Enduring Principles. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 215-233. Print.

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