I still remember watching the ‘Christmas special’ episode of Black Mirror and how it sent chills straight down my spine. And once again last night, I was blown away by the brilliance of the compelling episode of season 3 after almost two years.
“A Pastel-Hued Nightmare”
A short synopsis of the episode: “Nosedive” is a social media nightmare trapped in a pastel dream. In the status-obsessed world where everyone’s given a rating based on others’ immediate feedback about them, Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) — who is inhibited and “eager to please” — finds a way to move up to a higher “social class” when her childhood friend Naomi (Alice Eve), a beautiful but mean society elite with a 4.8/5 rating, asks her to be the maid of honor. After a series of unfortunate events on her way to Naomi’s wedding, her rating dropped from 4.2 to 2.8, and she finally has a nervous breakdown and gets extracted from society.
In this one-hour social satire, the inviting pastel palette and baby blue and pink outfits have a certain soothing quality which subtly clashes with the inner frustration of Lacie and the growing anxious tone of the episode. Joe Wright wanted to create “a dystopia that is pristine, picture perfect” that reflects the characters’ aspirations to appear perpetually cheerful. They always wear a smile on their faces, compliment others in an effort to “out-nice” one another just to get a higher rating. It sounds frighteningly familiar, doesn’t it?
Yes, I wouldn’t even call the episode science fiction because it depicts a dystopian “reality” that is not that far from where we are now. The ubiquity and immediacy of social media enable us to share (voluntarily or unknowingly) any aspect of our lives with those we choose and beyond. Initially, social media was originated for us to be better linked with one another. However, nowadays we overly reply upon them to the point that sometimes our virtual identities have taken on more importance than our real-life identities. We try to recreate a “perfect” persona of our “second selves” with shiny profiles and flamboyant images. We feel the constant pressure to compete with those who show off their amazing new outfits and ostentatious lifestyle. This abuse of social media changes the perception of our sense of reality, ourselves, and the world surrounding us.
I am sure that there are people who eschew social media. A student at my school doesn’t have Instagram or ever update his Facebook profile. My landlord’s son doesn’t even own a phone which makes it a lot more difficult when I try to contact his non-English speaking mother. Nonetheless, it can be so liberating when staying away from social media.
While traveling on the east coast of Australia for seven weeks, I didn’t have a sim card or post anything on social media. It was like I vanished off the face of the earth. I was having such a tremendously immersive experience just being fully present with the people around me. I never had to check my phone for updates or panic about what others felt about the new picture I posted. Later on, I shared a lot of images and engaged in conversations about my travels, not to get attention on social media but simply for the sake of “sharing”. I shared with people not only photos of the most beautiful sunrises or gorgeous surfer boys, but also the potential dangers of traveling alone as a girl, the awkward situations when encountering cultural barriers, and the struggles when trying to maximize every moment of a backpacking experience on a limited budget.
Unfortunately, social media, most of the time, is not really about sharing something that is deep, emotional, or meaningful. It has become increasingly superficial since it takes us only a few seconds to scroll down someone’s Instagram page and like a bunch of pictures without reading the captions while thinking, “I am only liking their photos so they will like mine back”. I understand that wanting to be socially accepted is part of our nature since the dawn of time, however this obsession with social media may eventually stop giving us pleasure, stray us away from our priorities, and ultimately backfire on our social lives.