Many of us remember the Twilight Zone as offering a glimpse into a society much like our own, but wherein something eerie casts a shadow over the seemingly pleasant facade of society.
Naturally, fans of the series were ecstatic when British television series announced it would be releasing a similar anthology series entitled Black Mirror
The third season plunged right in with their debut episode “Nose Dive.” “Nose Dive,” tells the story of a young woman named Lacie living in a society very much like our own where individuals rate every interaction they have with one another on a five-star system simply by pointing it at them. One’s cumulative score is used to determine where you may live, what jobs you may have, and what transportation you have access to.
After viewing this episode I was struck by the realization that to a lesser extent we are already living in a society fueled by ratings and limited interactions. Have we fully entered the Twilight Zone? No, but we may be farther down the path than we realize.
In the wake of the United States Presidental election, there was a clamoring on Facebook of people unfriending those with dissenting political views. When those with contradictory views are removed you are left with a small contained bubble of individuals who all share the same beliefs and values. Individuals also self-select their communities based on the content they prefer to see and the content they don’t.
When there is no differentiation of opinions, and no questioning of the information being presented the result is an overwhelmingly strong subconscious desire to conform. What is created is a bubble of confirmation bias which is then fueled by the social media platform. Similarly to the tradition of the media deciding which information to convey and at what time, Facebook also decides which content each individual sees and when. Facebook perpetuates the confirmation bias through the use of targeted marketing based on the networks of like-minded individuals in a person’s profile.
Social media has captured immeasurable audience interest from users to non-users alike since the earliest sites were launched. In recent years a new Twilight Zone-esque trend has been rising, the trend of the pretty girl who makes money by posting pictures on Instagram.
Once upon a time, the majority of product and brand ambassadors were varying levels of celebrity. Post-Twilight Zone, all one needs in order to become an ambassador is a sizeable number of Instagram followers and the ability to take flattering and or sexy photos with said products.
The general logic behind these campaigns is simple to follow. How do you get your product a wider or more targetted audience? Give your product to a few people with sizeable Instagram followers and ask them to review your product. In an age where the new cool thing is to be authentic, brands recognize that an “average” girl may be able to better influence her peers than say, Selena Gomez.
On the surface, this logic is straightforward and seems like a reasonable avenue to increased sales, but what are the underlying implications? In the new age of Instagram ambassadors, brands are relying on the fact that consumers are drawn to the authenticity of the ambassador, their popularity, and the idea that with enough work someday they could be in their shoes.
The paradox here is that brands are hinging their marketing plans on the authenticity of a platform which by societal design only showcases the rosy aspects of an “authentic” life. With everyone online and the ability to view anyone’s profile, there is a heightened desire to only put forth what and how you want the world to see you. With this level of ingenuity, how can any interactions on such a platform be judged as authentic?
In the digital age of social media, we have created a society where individuals are only part of like-minded groups, information is tailored to the individual based on what they want to see, and our “authentic” lives are nothing more than shadows behind popularity filters and the idea of a “perfect” life. When taken in this context, one must ask, are we living in the Twilight Zone already?