This episode of Black Mirror, in my opinion, simply illustrates our society in an exaggerated form. To summarize the episode very generally, the main character lives in a dystopian world where every person has a rating, and everyone else can choose to either increase or decrease their rating based upon things the person posts online or actions they do in real life. Throughout the show, the main character, Lacie, is striving to keep up with her highly-rated and glamorous best friend, and has a mixture of admiration and jealousy of her friend due to her social ranking.
Though our society does not function this way completely, we tend to make enormous judgments of a person simply based upon how many followers they have or how many likes they get on a social media platform, regardless of who the person is themselves. When we see pictures of a person thinking looking especially glamorous or having a good time, we often experience some variation the following two polarized thoughts:
- This is such a cool picture. He/she seems like such a fun person with an exciting life!
- Ugh. He/she is so self absorbed. He/she must think they are SO cool.
Maybe not everyone thinks this way, but I can admit that these thoughts definitely pop into my head, and I am self-aware of how silly both are. However, they ultimately strike a parallel between our inner thoughts and the way Lacie conducts herself throughout the episode. She wants to be seen just as highly as her attractive friend, even if her friend is not actually that great of a person overall. Though we may not be as extreme as Lacie, many of us would admit that we have had the thought that it would be cool to get as many likes as someone else.
Almost every single thing Lacie does throughout the episode is to make others rate her positively and increase her overall number, just as how every thing we do on social media is for others to think of us positively. I highly doubt anyone can say that they have posted on social media without a subconscious intention of eliciting a positive emotion in the minds of others. Whether it be an attractive Instagram picture, a funny tweet, or a politically-charged Facebook status, everyone posts because they want others to have some kind of reaction.
Writing this blog post reminded me of an article I read recently about a fake Instagram account made by the French organization Addict Aide to raise awareness about alcoholism. The account, louise.delage, which can still be found on Instagram, depicts the exciting and fun life of a French socialite. In every picture, the woman is holding some kind of alcoholic beverage. Though her life may look exciting and glamorous, her character could have a serious drinking problem– however, everyone chooses to see the fun, cool side of her and wants to see her posts regardless of who she really is in real life. The account has 111k followers.
The article about the account closes with, “…the glamorous slice of someone’s life that you see online isn’t always what it seems to be… in fact, sometimes it’s not real at all.” Though Lacie was doing things throughout the episode to make her rating higher, the end of the episode made it clear that these glamorous and fake affirmations simply drove her crazy instead of making her happy. The Black Mirror episode and the article both pulled me back into reality, and made me realize how though people’s perceptions of us can still matter overall, the way people who know us personally in real life perceive us is far more important than how our social media followers do.