Abstract

Black Mirror’s “Nosedive” takes place in a world in which a social media rating stratifies society, restricting resources and kind words to those who are best rated. As a result, those with the highest ratings enjoy the highest status and most pleasant interactions with others the vast majority of the time, at the cost of genuine and sympathetic interactions with others. The incentive of status through the maximization of an omnipresent and visible rating that is dependent upon others’ ratings destroys what honest and compassionate interactions people are capable of. This is revealed to Lacie, the main character of the episode throughout the episode and culminates in her explosive rejection of the paradigm in which she operates.

 

 

Persona vs. Proxy: The Sacrifice of Sympathy for the Maintenance of an Online Persona in Black Mirror’s “Nosedive”

Social media is a ubiquitous presence, and in modern day life it is a realistic assumption that anything someone does in a group setting may end up on some form of social media, and from this media, people make judgments that can realistically impact a person’s life. Employers, schools, and family can all see the public social media profile a person projects. This can, when taken to the extreme, cause people to live for their public image rather than for their own happiness. In Black Mirror’s “Nosedive,” the embodiment of social media technology drains honesty and sympathy from human interactions and replaces them with the collective need for pleasantness by stratifying society based on a visible popularity. In the end, the episode argues against the idea that individuals should sacrifice their own needs for the collective need for pleasantness, regardless of the social consequences brought on by the technology. This effect of technology can be seen in nearly every aspect of the episode and is demonstrated through the eyes of Lacie, the main character.

The technology that drives the episode is a system in which every individual has a social media feed that can be seen through screens on their contact lenses or on their phone, which indicates a shift in social media from a hermeneutic interaction to an embodiment reaction. This embodiment of social media is manifested in a rating system. In day to day life, a name and a rating out of five stars can be seen over the heads of every person Lacie interacts with, and each interaction results in a mutual rating that affects this public number, which is ostensibly affected by the number of people who rate an individual and the number of what rating of person rates them. Not only is this rating public, but throughout the episode, it is demonstrated that an individual’s purchasing ability, who they can plausibly interact with, what job they can hold, and where they can live are all affected by this rating. As a result, this technology incentivizes pleasantness over honesty or sympathy.

This technology-driven incentive is demonstrated most effectively through the actions of the main character, Lacie Pound. From the beginning of the episode, she takes actions to improve her rating, from practicing reactions in the mirror to posting picturesque images of food that she doesn’t even like. This in itself serves as an example of the technology causing her to value her rating and her online persona over her own enjoyment, and this holds true for the majority of how she interacts with others, save for a few exceptions. As a result, there is little honest interaction in her life. From a chat with an older lady in the elevator to the way she interacts with her coworkers, each action is shown to not only increase or decrease her rating but that those interactions are staged to be as pleasant as possible to achieve a higher rating from the person. Both Lacie and the lady in the elevator were shown to be discreetly looking up information on each other to talk about in hopes of pleasing each other and earning said higher rating.

For Lacie, the desire for a higher rating is driven ostensibly to allow her to move into a fancier, more expensive apartment with “unparalleled metrics of romantic genesis” rather than continue to live with her brother (Wright 2016). In a roundabout way, Lacie places her happiness in her rating through the forward momentum in her life that the apartment could afford. She gets a large discount in rent if she can obtain a 4.5 rating, and at the point in the episode that she discovers this, she is a 4.2. Again, the rating technology incentivizes popularity by increasing the importance of the judgment of others. Lacie even sees a company called “Reputelligent,” which guides her in how to increase her rating. The mere existence of such a company reveals the demand and necessity for a higher rating. At a meeting with a reputation counselor, a blueprint of how the rating is decided is established (Wright 2016). Higher ratings from high-rated people boost a rating more than a lower-rated person’s high rating, and low scores from lower-rated people detract from a higher-rated person’s rating as well. This is a primary way that the technology stratifies people.

In terms of the rating system, giving a higher rating to a lower-rated person has significant consequences to one’s own rating because a rating of that type indicates that an individual likes someone who is generally disliked. Even when even a slightly higher rating could be a mercy, it is against a person’s self-interest to help them. Social disgrace is incredibly public and incredibly difficult to recover from in this world due to the technology and has lasting consequences in terms of physical and monetary quality of life rather than only social quality of life as would be the case without the technology. This is all eloquently demonstrated by how Lacie reluctantly treats her office worker Chester, who dropped to a 3.1 because of a breakup (Wright 2016). When Lacie attempts to rate him highly because he offered her a smoothie (which was again an attempt to recover his ranking) she is immediately rated poorly by others in her office. He effectively gets effectively fired when he drops below 2.5 and isn’t allowed into his office building when a rating by a passing Lacie could have allowed him in.

Part of the reason Lacie didn’t allow Chester into the building was that that event closely followed her meeting with the reputation counselor and with the realtor for the new apartment complex. Prior to these meetings, Lacie rated Chester five stars even in the face of the fact that he wasn’t ranked too highly. The incentive of the apartment that was dependent on her visible ranking destroyed what compassion was even available to Lacie.

The fact that Lacie shunned Chester for her own ranking turns in on itself when later Lacie experiences the same treatment. Lacie’s method of obtaining a 4.5 rating was to attend her friend Naomi’s wedding and give a speech to all of Naomi’s 4.5 and above friends, who would then presumably rank her well and boost her rating above a 4.5 (Wright 2016). Her flight ended up canceled and she attempted to hitchhike to Naomi’s wedding, again driven not by the fear of disappointing Naomi or hurting her friend but by the carrot of a 4.5 rating for giving her speech. Along the way, her momentary frustration overtakes her desire to hold her ranking more than once, and she ends up penalized at the airport by having her ranking temporarily dropped.

This again demonstrates just how entrenched the technology is and how much depends on the ranking; losing a ranking is comparable to being thrown in jail as punishment for Lacie making a scene at the airport. The threshold for what constitutes a “scene” at the airport further assists this point. Raising your voice and swearing briefly would likely get security called and get a person kicked out of an airport, but the consequences for Lacie end up much steeper for the same offense. Peace and the general pleasantness of interactions are shown to be valued at a much higher rate than any single person’s well-being. Her decreased rating restricted her ability to rent a car and how she was treated by nearly everyone, be it assistance with her car or picking her up when she was hitchhiking.

The icing on the cake, however, is when Naomi rejects Lacie and tells her she doesn’t want Lacie at her wedding because her ranking is too low. It is revealed that Naomi wanted Lacie there because “the authenticity of a vintage bond low four at a gathering of this caliber played fantastically in all the simulations we ran,” (Wright 2016) meaning Naomi wanted nothing more than the numbers, and that because Lacie’s ranking was too low for her speech to boost Naomi’s ranking, Lacie’s speech would no longer provide a rating boost and therefore she wasn’t welcome. Lacie, just like Chester, was flat out dropped because they were too low of a ranking. Naomi also never considered that Lacie may have truly wanted to be there, as demonstrated by the fact that her immediate response was “just about numbers for you” (Wright 2016). The rating system eliminated any of the sympathy either girl could have had for the other. Naomi stated clearly that it was all about the numbers and even though Lacie was ostensibly there for the numbers, she also held onto the hope that Naomi wanted her there because she remembers “the little girl that when we were just five years old in art camp started talking to me because I was scared,” as she states at the end (Wright 2016). Through the dependency on the rating system for social capital, Naomi was stripped of any ability to consider Lacie’s feelings or to even consider that Lacie being there could have been about anything but the numbers.

The development of Lacie’s character, from someone who believes that the rating system will bring her happiness to someone who enjoys the freedom of saying what she pleases demonstrates how the technology in the world of “Nosedive” destroys the ability in most people to give or receive compassion and replaces it with the necessity for the collective pleasantness. Day to day interactions become happy and fun-filled, but devoid of any kind of compassion or thought for anything beyond one’s own ranking. Those that defy the ranking system are trampled upon, or in Lacie’s case even imprisoned.

 

 

 

References

Wright, J. (Director), Schur, M. (Writer) Jones, R (Writer). (2016). Black Mirror, “Nosedive” [Motion Picture]. House of Tomorrow: Endemol UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persona vs. Proxy: The Sacrifice of Sympathy for the Maintenance of an Online Persona in Black Mirror’s “Nosedive”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract

Black Mirror’s “Nosedive” takes place in a world in which a social media rating stratifies society, restricting resources and kind words to those who are best rated. As a result, those with the highest ratings enjoy the highest status and most pleasant interactions with others the vast majority of the time, at the cost of genuine and sympathetic interactions with others. The incentive of status through the maximization of an omnipresent and visible rating that is dependent upon others’ ratings destroys what honest and compassionate interactions people are capable of. This is revealed to Lacie, the main character of the episode throughout the episode and culminates in her explosive rejection of the paradigm in which she operates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persona vs. Proxy: The Sacrifice of Sympathy for the Maintenance of an Online Persona in Black Mirror’s “Nosedive”

Social media is a ubiquitous presence, and in modern day life it is a realistic assumption that anything someone does in a group setting may end up on some form of social media, and from this media people make judgements that can realistically impact a person’s life. Employers, schools, and family can all see the public social media profile a person projects. This can, when taken to the extreme, cause people to live for their public image rather than for their own happiness. In Black Mirror’s “Nosedive,” the embodiment of social media technology drains honesty and sympathy from human interactions and replaces them with the collective need for pleasantness by stratifying society based on a visible popularity. In the end, the episode argues against the idea that individuals should sacrifice their own needs for the collective need for pleasantness, regardless of the social consequences brought on by the technology. This effect of technology can be seen in nearly every aspect of the episode and is demonstrated through the eyes of Lacie, the main character.

The technology that drives the episode is a system in which every individual has a social media feed that can be seen through screens on their contact lenses or on their phone, which indicates a shift in social media from a hermeneutic interaction to an embodiment reaction. This embodiment of social media is manifested in a rating system. In day to day life, a name and a rating out of five stars can be seen over the heads of every person Lacie interacts with, and each interaction results in a mutual rating that affects this public number, which is ostensibly affected by the number of people who rate an individual and the number of what rating of person rates them. Not only is this rating public, but throughout the episode it is demonstrated that an individual’s purchasing ability, who they can plausibly interact with, what job they can hold, and where they can live are all affected by this rating. As a result, this technology incentivizes pleasantness over honesty or sympathy.

This technology-driven incentive is demonstrated most effectively through the actions of the main character, Lacie Pound. From the beginning of the episode, she takes actions to improve her rating, from practicing reactions in the mirror to posting picturesque images of food that she doesn’t even like. This in itself serves as an example of the technology causing her to value her rating and her online persona over her own enjoyment, and this holds true for the majority of how she interacts with others, save for a few exceptions. As a result, there is little honest interaction in her life. From a chat with an older lady in the elevator to the way she interacts with her coworkers, each action is shown to not only increase or decrease her rating, but that those interactions are staged to be as pleasant as possible to achieve a higher rating from the person. Both Lacie and the lady in the elevator were shown to be discreetly looking up information on each other to talk about in hopes of pleasing each other and earning said higher rating.

For Lacie, the desire for a higher rating is driven ostensibly to allow her to move into a fancier, more expensive apartment with “unparalleled metrics of romantic genesis” rather than continue to live with her brother (Wright 2016). In a roundabout way, Lacie places her happiness in her rating through the forward momentum in her life that the apartment could afford. She gets a large discount in rent if she can obtain a 4.5 rating, and at the point in the episode that she discovers this, she is a 4.2. Again, the rating technology incentivizes popularity by increasing the importance of the judgement of others. Lacie even sees a company called “Reputelligent,” which guides her in how to increase her rating. The mere existence of such a company reveals the demand and necessity for a higher rating. At a meeting with a reputation counselor, a blueprint of how the rating is decided is established (Wright 2016). Higher ratings from high-rated people boost a rating more than a lower-rated person’s high rating, and low scores from lower-rated people detract from a higher-rated person’s rating as well. This is a primary way that the technology stratifies people.

In terms of the rating system, giving a higher rating to a lower-rated person has significant consequences to one’s own rating because a rating of that type indicates that an individual likes someone who is generally disliked. Even when even a slightly higher rating could be a mercy, it is against a person’s self interest to help them. Social disgrace is incredibly public and incredibly difficult to recover from in this world due to the technology and has lasting consequences in terms of physical and monetary quality of life rather than only social quality of life as would be the case without the technology. This is all eloquently demonstrated by how Lacie reluctantly treats her office worker Chester, who dropped to a 3.1 because of a breakup (Wright 2016). When Lacie attempts to rate him highly because he offered her a smoothie (which was again an attempt to recover his ranking) she is immediately rated poorly by others in her office. He effectively gets effectively fired when he drops below 2.5 and isn’t allowed into his office building, when a rating by a passing Lacie could have allowed him in.

Part of the reason Lacie didn’t allow Chester into the building was because that event closely followed her meeting with the reputation counselor and with the realtor for the new apartment complex. Prior to these meetings, Lacie rated Chester five stars even in the face of the fact that he wasn’t ranked too highly. The incentive of the apartment that was dependent on her visible ranking destroyed what compassion was even available to Lacie.

The fact that Lacie shunned Chester for her own ranking turns in on itself when later Lacie experiences the same treatment. Lacie’s method of obtaining a 4.5 rating was to attend her friend Naomi’s wedding and give a speech to all of Naomi’s 4.5 and above friends, who would then presumably rank her well and boost her rating above a 4.5 (Wright 2016). Her flight ended up cancelled and she attempted to hitchhike to Naomi’s wedding, again driven not by the fear of disappointing Naomi or hurting her friend but by the carrot of a 4.5 rating for giving her speech. Along the way, her momentary frustration overtakes her desire to hold her ranking more than once, and she ends up penalized at the airport by having her ranking temporarily dropped.

This again demonstrates just how entrenched the technology is and how much depends on the ranking; losing a ranking is comparable to being thrown in jail as punishment for Lacie making a scene at the airport. The threshold for what constitutes a “scene” at the airport further assists this point. Raising your voice and swearing briefly would likely get security called and get a person kicked out of an airport, but the consequences for Lacie end up much steeper for the same offence. Peace and the general pleasantness of interactions is shown to be valued at a much higher rate than any single person’s well-being. Her decreased rating restricted her ability to rent a car and how she was treated by nearly everyone, be it assistance with her car or picking her up when she was hitchhiking.

The icing on the cake, however, is when Naomi rejects Lacie and tells her she doesn’t want Lacie at her wedding because her ranking is too low. It is revealed that Naomi wanted Lacie there because “the authenticity of a vintage bond low four at a gathering of this caliber played fantastically in all the simulations we ran,” (Wright 2016) meaning Naomi wanted nothing more than the numbers, and that because Lacie’s ranking was too low for her speech to boost Naomi’s ranking, Lacie’s speech would no longer provide a rating boost and therefore she wasn’t welcome. Lacie, just like Chester, was flat out dropped because they were too low of a ranking. Naomi also never considered that Lacie may have truthfully wanted to be there, as demonstrated by the fact that her immediate response was “just about numbers for you” (Wright 2016). The ratings system eliminated any of the sympathy either girl could have had for the other. Naomi stated clearly that it was all about the numbers and even though Lacie was ostensibly there for the numbers, she also held onto the hope that Naomi wanted her there because she remembers “the little girl that when we were just five years old in art camp started talking to me because I was scared,” as she states in the end (Wright 2016). Through the dependency on the rating system for social capital, Naomi was stripped of any ability to consider Lacie’s feelings or to even consider that Lacie being there could have been about anything but the numbers.

The development of Lacie’s character, from someone who believes that the rating system will bring her happiness to someone who enjoys the freedom of saying what she pleases demonstrates how the technology in the world of “Nosedive” destroys the ability in most people to give or receive compassion and replaces it with the necessity for the collective pleasantness. Day to day interactions become happy and fun-filled, but devoid of any kind of compassion or thought for anything beyond one’s own ranking. Those that defy the ranking system are trampled upon, or in Lacie’s case even imprisoned.

 

 

 

References

Wright, J. (Director), Schur, M. (Writer) Jones, R (Writer). (2016). Black Mirror, “Nosedive” [Motion Picture]. House of Tomorrow: Endemol UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persona vs. Proxy: The Sacrifice of Sympathy for the Maintenance of an Online Persona in Black Mirror’s “Nosedive”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abstract

Black Mirror’s “Nosedive” takes place in a world in which a social media rating stratifies society, restricting resources and kind words to those who are best rated. As a result, those with the highest ratings enjoy the highest status and most pleasant interactions with others the vast majority of the time, at the cost of genuine and sympathetic interactions with others. The incentive of status through the maximization of an omnipresent and visible rating that is dependent upon others’ ratings destroys what honest and compassionate interactions people are capable of. This is revealed to Lacie, the main character of the episode throughout the episode and culminates in her explosive rejection of the paradigm in which she operates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Persona vs. Proxy: The Sacrifice of Sympathy for the Maintenance of an Online Persona in Black Mirror’s “Nosedive”

Social media is a ubiquitous presence, and in modern day life it is a realistic assumption that anything someone does in a group setting may end up on some form of social media, and from this media people make judgements that can realistically impact a person’s life. Employers, schools, and family can all see the public social media profile a person projects. This can, when taken to the extreme, cause people to live for their public image rather than for their own happiness. In Black Mirror’s “Nosedive,” the embodiment of social media technology drains honesty and sympathy from human interactions and replaces them with the collective need for pleasantness by stratifying society based on a visible popularity. In the end, the episode argues against the idea that individuals should sacrifice their own needs for the collective need for pleasantness, regardless of the social consequences brought on by the technology. This effect of technology can be seen in nearly every aspect of the episode and is demonstrated through the eyes of Lacie, the main character.

The technology that drives the episode is a system in which every individual has a social media feed that can be seen through screens on their contact lenses or on their phone, which indicates a shift in social media from a hermeneutic interaction to an embodiment reaction. This embodiment of social media is manifested in a rating system. In day to day life, a name and a rating out of five stars can be seen over the heads of every person Lacie interacts with, and each interaction results in a mutual rating that affects this public number, which is ostensibly affected by the number of people who rate an individual and the number of what rating of person rates them. Not only is this rating public, but throughout the episode it is demonstrated that an individual’s purchasing ability, who they can plausibly interact with, what job they can hold, and where they can live are all affected by this rating. As a result, this technology incentivizes pleasantness over honesty or sympathy.

This technology-driven incentive is demonstrated most effectively through the actions of the main character, Lacie Pound. From the beginning of the episode, she takes actions to improve her rating, from practicing reactions in the mirror to posting picturesque images of food that she doesn’t even like. This in itself serves as an example of the technology causing her to value her rating and her online persona over her own enjoyment, and this holds true for the majority of how she interacts with others, save for a few exceptions. As a result, there is little honest interaction in her life. From a chat with an older lady in the elevator to the way she interacts with her coworkers, each action is shown to not only increase or decrease her rating, but that those interactions are staged to be as pleasant as possible to achieve a higher rating from the person. Both Lacie and the lady in the elevator were shown to be discreetly looking up information on each other to talk about in hopes of pleasing each other and earning said higher rating.

For Lacie, the desire for a higher rating is driven ostensibly to allow her to move into a fancier, more expensive apartment with “unparalleled metrics of romantic genesis” rather than continue to live with her brother (Wright 2016). In a roundabout way, Lacie places her happiness in her rating through the forward momentum in her life that the apartment could afford. She gets a large discount in rent if she can obtain a 4.5 rating, and at the point in the episode that she discovers this, she is a 4.2. Again, the rating technology incentivizes popularity by increasing the importance of the judgement of others. Lacie even sees a company called “Reputelligent,” which guides her in how to increase her rating. The mere existence of such a company reveals the demand and necessity for a higher rating. At a meeting with a reputation counselor, a blueprint of how the rating is decided is established (Wright 2016). Higher ratings from high-rated people boost a rating more than a lower-rated person’s high rating, and low scores from lower-rated people detract from a higher-rated person’s rating as well. This is a primary way that the technology stratifies people.

In terms of the rating system, giving a higher rating to a lower-rated person has significant consequences to one’s own rating because a rating of that type indicates that an individual likes someone who is generally disliked. Even when even a slightly higher rating could be a mercy, it is against a person’s self interest to help them. Social disgrace is incredibly public and incredibly difficult to recover from in this world due to the technology and has lasting consequences in terms of physical and monetary quality of life rather than only social quality of life as would be the case without the technology. This is all eloquently demonstrated by how Lacie reluctantly treats her office worker Chester, who dropped to a 3.1 because of a breakup (Wright 2016). When Lacie attempts to rate him highly because he offered her a smoothie (which was again an attempt to recover his ranking) she is immediately rated poorly by others in her office. He effectively gets effectively fired when he drops below 2.5 and isn’t allowed into his office building, when a rating by a passing Lacie could have allowed him in.

Part of the reason Lacie didn’t allow Chester into the building was because that event closely followed her meeting with the reputation counselor and with the realtor for the new apartment complex. Prior to these meetings, Lacie rated Chester five stars even in the face of the fact that he wasn’t ranked too highly. The incentive of the apartment that was dependent on her visible ranking destroyed what compassion was even available to Lacie.

The fact that Lacie shunned Chester for her own ranking turns in on itself when later Lacie experiences the same treatment. Lacie’s method of obtaining a 4.5 rating was to attend her friend Naomi’s wedding and give a speech to all of Naomi’s 4.5 and above friends, who would then presumably rank her well and boost her rating above a 4.5 (Wright 2016). Her flight ended up cancelled and she attempted to hitchhike to Naomi’s wedding, again driven not by the fear of disappointing Naomi or hurting her friend but by the carrot of a 4.5 rating for giving her speech. Along the way, her momentary frustration overtakes her desire to hold her ranking more than once, and she ends up penalized at the airport by having her ranking temporarily dropped.

This again demonstrates just how entrenched the technology is and how much depends on the ranking; losing a ranking is comparable to being thrown in jail as punishment for Lacie making a scene at the airport. The threshold for what constitutes a “scene” at the airport further assists this point. Raising your voice and swearing briefly would likely get security called and get a person kicked out of an airport, but the consequences for Lacie end up much steeper for the same offence. Peace and the general pleasantness of interactions is shown to be valued at a much higher rate than any single person’s well-being. Her decreased rating restricted her ability to rent a car and how she was treated by nearly everyone, be it assistance with her car or picking her up when she was hitchhiking.

The icing on the cake, however, is when Naomi rejects Lacie and tells her she doesn’t want Lacie at her wedding because her ranking is too low. It is revealed that Naomi wanted Lacie there because “the authenticity of a vintage bond low four at a gathering of this caliber played fantastically in all the simulations we ran,” (Wright 2016) meaning Naomi wanted nothing more than the numbers, and that because Lacie’s ranking was too low for her speech to boost Naomi’s ranking, Lacie’s speech would no longer provide a rating boost and therefore she wasn’t welcome. Lacie, just like Chester, was flat out dropped because they were too low of a ranking. Naomi also never considered that Lacie may have truthfully wanted to be there, as demonstrated by the fact that her immediate response was “just about numbers for you” (Wright 2016). The ratings system eliminated any of the sympathy either girl could have had for the other. Naomi stated clearly that it was all about the numbers and even though Lacie was ostensibly there for the numbers, she also held onto the hope that Naomi wanted her there because she remembers “the little girl that when we were just five years old in art camp started talking to me because I was scared,” as she states in the end (Wright 2016). Through the dependency on the rating system for social capital, Naomi was stripped of any ability to consider Lacie’s feelings or to even consider that Lacie being there could have been about anything but the numbers.

The development of Lacie’s character, from someone who believes that the rating system will bring her happiness to someone who enjoys the freedom of saying what she pleases demonstrates how the technology in the world of “Nosedive” destroys the ability in most people to give or receive compassion and replaces it with the necessity for the collective pleasantness. Day to day interactions become happy and fun-filled, but devoid of any kind of compassion or thought for anything beyond one’s own ranking. Those that defy the ranking system are trampled upon, or in Lacie’s case even imprisoned.

 

 

 

References

Wright, J. (Director), Schur, M. (Writer) Jones, R (Writer). (2016). Black Mirror, “Nosedive” [Motion Picture]. House of Tomorrow: Endemol UK

 

 

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