What Are We Missing? Black Mirror Looks at the Darker Side of Technology

Luke Clellan Dellorso

There have always been and will always be conversations regarding our use of technology and social media, and its subsequent effects on us as humans. While we have witnessed myriad amazing as well as disdaining things happen as a result of social media use, we have not seen a society change in its entirety.

black-mirror-season-3-poster

The statement that society has changed greatly as a result of social media use is a fair argument, but, I am not referring to the overuse of social media or the fact that many humans are glued to their phones (albeit, that is a very concerning statement). Rather, the change that I am referring to is something that we could look at now, in a contemporary sense, and say, “if that were to happen in the future, I would be absolutely terrified”.

 

In 2011, Charlie Brooker did just that. He created a television show by the name of Black Mirror, which consists of episodes with independent storylines that comment on the technological and social media driven world in which we live today.

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Still from Black Mirror, “Nosedive” (Season 3, Episode 1, 2016)

As I mentioned above though, these episodes do not simply comment on the overuse of technology or the negative manner in which social media can be used-no, these episodes look at worlds in which an application, which rates people on their interactions, is able to dictate one’s social status, flight status, and even their ability to rent a car. These episodes explore worlds in which judicial punishment comes in the form of literal torture and the reliving of a single day, over and over again (in addition to the fact that this day includes a woman being stalked by murderers and social media goers recording her along the way, but not offering any assistance).

While I mentioned earlier that we have not yet reached a world that fully resembles those that are illustrated in Black Mirror, the horrifying thing is, we do not seem to be too far off. As was mentioned in Sophie Gilbert’s article for The Atlantic, the application Peeple was “Billed as ‘Yelp for people,'” and “…gave users the capacity to rank any person around them on a star system”. While the application seems to have changed its focus, it is a reminder that we are not as far removed from the storylines in Black Mirror as we may have previously thought.

So, the question becomes, “When and where do we cross the threshold”? Is it plausible that in our lifetimes we may witness a world that is so dictated by social media and technology that we become servants of an application that rates us? As a self-proclaimed social media and technology nerd, I am absolutely entranced by the possibilities that the future holds for us, but shows such as this provide me with a necessary reality check of the potential dangers of such a future.

 

Luke Clellan Dellorso

WFU ’17

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10 Responses to What Are We Missing? Black Mirror Looks at the Darker Side of Technology

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I am now really interested in watching this show. I love it when shows and movies speculate what the future of technology will look like in regards to everyday life and how it would impact people of different backgrounds.

    Cal Parsons

  2. LUKE! I’ve never seen this but am loving the premise of it. Personally, I wish social media didn’t exist half the time, so I’m betting I would really enjoy seeing it darkly portrayed. After taking Sci-Fi film with you I can only think about “technophobia” and the uncanny valley– it seems all too possible in the near future.

    Kelly FitzGerald

  3. mediaphiles says:

    What’s so scary to me about Black Mirror is while it is mainly interpreted as a social critique of how technology could control us in the future, I think it’s interesting to realize that most of the possible futures are already parts of our realities. One episode showcases an application that allows people to relieve memories in their eyes, and it leads one character to overthink and unravel his wife’s affair until it ruins their relationship entirely. His breakdown is terrifying and uncomfortable to watch. And yet, the whole time I was thinking “there are already people like this.” while technology may cause terrible things like this tv show brings to the forefront of our minds, I think it’s worth noting that we all already have the potential to do terrible things to other people. It all comes down to whether we think for ourselves and challenge what we are told.

    Russell Lawrence

  4. mediaphiles says:

    While I have yet to watch Black Mirror, I too am intrigued by television series and films exploring similar ideas. In a way, Ex-Machina and West World, while they don’t address social media issues, can also be tied into this conversation about the human hand in creating (and loosing control over) overpowering technology. I really respect producers and filmmakers who are pushing this boundaries and asking these important questions about our behavior and technology habits because it is often the case that many others don’t. I think its really important to have shows and movies out there right now that present a seemingly “fictional reality” that could likely become a true reality if we don’t think about what we are doing and how we are using technology/machines.

    – Lydia Geisel

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I thought this show was soooooo cool in the way that it did everything you mention. I also like how it even made comments about the way we go about war, and the downfalls of the human mind when given the capabilities to further its curiosity and dark sides. The episode about the soldier really made an amazing comment on the way we view our “enemies” in war time and I think it sent a quintessential comment on humanity. I took a class at wake called “The Darkside of Electronics”, and I can tell you, unfortunately we are indeed closer than we may realize.

    -Michael Cyphers

  6. mediaphiles says:

    I absolutely adore this show! It is definitely the type of show that offers an in depth analysis on social commentary for sure. The show always manages to surprise me due to the realism of each premise. Each episode is driven by human behavior and the potential of our real world turning out just like the story(if it hasn’t already). It does not adhere to the stigma of happy endings and allows viewers to think past the original premise and offer their own insight on the various stories throughout the series.

    -Shelby Halliman

  7. mediaphiles says:

    I have heard much about this show, and this piece definitely raises my interest in seeing it. You’re right in the way that we tend to scold ourselves and society today for our use of technology and that future technology (besides warfare, weapons, etc) isn’t criticized as much. Taking a more social look into these ideas sound like a very interesting topic.

    -Jake Fallin

  8. mediaphiles says:

    I watched the social rating episode and it was very unsettling. It seemed so outrageous and almost silly at the time. When I reflected back over it, I realized that the scores that people were giving each other happen in our heads all the time. Of course, we would like to think that we are perfect, nonjudgemental humans, but what pushes us to like a certain picture on Instagram and not another? Was one person doing something better than the other person? How many times do we check to see how many likes we get on our pictures or who watched our snap chats stories? We are internally judging ourselves already and hoping that the people around us approve. If we are on the way to self-driving cars and virtual reality, who is to say that a rating system like Instagram is going to stay a crazy fantasy?

    -Sarah Holt

  9. mediaphiles says:

    I love movies and TV shows and novels that take off from reality and look into the future in a critical way. Wether or not these speculations of future will become true (I surely hope not), I feel that we are lucky as humanity that there are people like Charlie Brooker who concerns himself with the human condition in the future.

    -Kevin Yu

  10. marymdalton says:

    Yet another series I’ve been meaning to dive into but have not yet found the time. Great conversation thread with the comments.

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