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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Black Mirror, Season 3, Episode 1: "Nosedive" (2016) and the Woes of Social Media and Our Own Existence

"A lifestyle community."
Season 3, Episode 1: "Nosedive"
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Alice Eve, Nambitha Ben-Wazi
Created By: Charlie Booker
Network: Netflix
In just the course of two riveting seasons, Black Mirror has created a world that seems nothing like our own. However, this is only at first glance. If you dig a little deeper, you'll see past all of its gorgeous cinematography and clear-cut editing and what you'll find is that this while times have changed and technology has advanced, humanity has not. Like a documentary, Black Mirror explores not only these new technologies, but the everyday people who use this technology as a way to better their lives. Even though the situations in this show are exaggerated and it presents a reality that seemingly doesn't exist, people are still people. The citizens in this society shroud their true selves in pastel colors and fake smiles, but why? It's because in this society, people are ranked by their interactions with others. The nicer you are, the more "likes" you get. The more likes you get, the higher your ranking and the more acceptable you're deemed in said society. However, cutting someone off in traffic could cause that person to down-vote, decreasing your rank. All this information is projected onto a person's "feed", located on their phone and this feed consists of pictures and statues, like a typical social media site. The main difference between this sort of social media and out own is that a person's ranking is also up on the site as well to the world to see, but again, the number is not just a ranking of how liked they are in society, it shows their standing in society as well. Those with high numbers like 4.8 and up are wealthy and beautiful. They are offered better job positions and other opportunities than those with numbers like 4.2 and below like our protagonist, Lacie, (Bryce Dallas Howard).

On our own social media sites, the ranking/liking mechanism is a bit similar. Whether we're liking, up-voting, re-tweeting, or favoriting, those actions act as our personal stamp of approval though social media acts as more of a competition over who can get he most likes rather than a media sharing experience between friends and family, like it was initially created to be used for. Have you ever posted a picture only to receive 11 likes and days later, your friend posts the same kind of thing and gets 45? What do you do and more importantly, how do you feel? There are only a couple of options. You take the photo down and try again or you go liking other people's posts like crazy in order to get them to like your photo in return. But isn't it just a photo? Do you even care about what you're liking or are you only liking things for votes in return? Your personal stamp of approval is there for everyone to see when you like someone's post, but who's to know if it's genuine or not when it's done from behind a screen. In Lacie's world, the social media experience is about more than a like on photo or a status. This is not only because your ranking is dependent on those pictures, it's the fact that your ranking is your entire existence. If a person's worth is dependent on whether or not someone else likes us and what we post, the anxieties that come from this sort of dilemma can drive a person insane. Why would someone chose to not like your photo or down-vote you if you haven't directly done anything to them? You can lose sleep overthinking these kinds of things, staying up until the crack of dawn plotting how to change their minds and make them like you. We, as a society, seem to need this validation, even if it's achieved through something as simple as liking a picture of your beloved rag doll.  
All of those previously mentioned anxieties are projected onto our protagonist, Lacie. However, instead of facing these fears head on and being herself, she grins widely at strangers, practices her laugh in the mirror non-stop and even through all her mishaps, she still keeps on smiling all for a mere positive rating. Though she's currently at a respectable 4.2, but she longs to be like her longtime friend Naomi (Alice Eve) who is at a sterling 4.8, so a majority of the episode is her trying to get a higher rating, which gets tad repetitive at times, but it is interesting to see just how far she'll go for the rating, but question is, at what price? 
 Lacie is given the chance to live in the apartment of her dreams, but the thing is: it's too expensive. In order for her to receive a discount on the property, she'll have to be least a 4.5, so with her big eyes and wide smile, she sets off to find a way to get herself there. After trying to make it up there with decent up-votes from strangers doesn't work, she's presented with the opportunity of a lifetime: to be a bridesmaid in Naomi's wedding. There will be tons and tons of people with high ratings at the wedding, so if Lacie nails the speech she's planning on giving at the wedding, then getting to a 4.5 will be a piece of cake and that's where the story takes off as Lacie begins to work even harder to get to Naomi's wedding for those likes. And through car troubles and a hitch hiking misadventure, we slowly see the prim, pretty and somewhat robotic Lacie we once knew transform into an actual human being. Dressed from head to toe in beautiful pastel colors, we originally met a person who wasn't an actual person. She moves like a person, and operates like a person, but she is far from an actual person. Her smiles are wide, but they're also broken and practiced. There's no indication of any sort of Lacie's personality besides from what she posts on her feed, which she strategically picks out in order to receive the most likes. But soon things go from bad to worse and Lacie breaks. Her flight gets cancelled and her car runs out of gas, Lacie begins swearing and running and screaming and it's in this mental breakdown of sorts that Lacie becomes human because through all our faults and mishaps, it's the faults in us that make us human. While Lacie's world is extremist in the way a person's ranking literally marks what they can and cannot do, its not far from our own. We are Lacie in the fact that we both want the same thing. We both want to matter. We all want to matter whether it be to strangers on the internet or to our own friends and family. We put ourselves out there on our social media sites, but it's up to the people around us to apply their own little stamp of approval on what we put out in the world or it's as if we don't even exist at all.  
 If you enjoyed this review of the premiere of this new season of Black Mirror be sure to check out my review of the last two seasons of Black Mirror if you've missed out it.

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