NOSEDIVE – THRIVE OR DEPRIVE?
– Ngô Minh Kiên –
As technology thrives and our world gets digitalised, sometimes everything just processes too fast that we forget to look back and see what is really going on. We get used to the comfort that is brought about by our smartphones, laptops, etc. to the point where we just let those devices control our world. The Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” features a society where technology has completely taken over and people mistakenly think that they are in control of technology. Chaotic as it seems, “Nosedive” underlies some important messages about the influence of social media on us.
The first point is that social media prevents people from giving their own personal thoughts. People are ranked based on the 5-star system and the key point is to make others rate you high. Thus, people are always giving compliments and smiles. This is illustrated very clearly in various scenes, namely when Lacie and Bethany enter the elevator and compliment each other. Let alone the fact that their smiles are completely fake, all of the good things they say are based on what they have just looked up on social media two seconds before, not really what they truly know about each other. Or, when Lacie decides to leave a helpless Ches behind and not give him a rating that can help him get into the building. Notice that she was confused for a split second, which shows that she is not indifferent and she does want to help Ches. It is just if she does, her own ratings will drop due to others downvoting her. Since negative feelings are just as needed as the positive ones, the world featured in “Nosedive” is where people cannot live with their true self.
On the other hand, it is interesting how social media is applied to rank everything, even things that are not supposed to be ranked. People’s happiness are based on whether or not their rankings are high, not on their feelings and that of their relatives. Lacie and Ryan quarrelled about Lacie’s intention to be the Maid of Honor at Naomi’s wedding. While Ryan keeps reminding her of how bad Naomi was to her and how he misses “the normal you” and “when we had conversations, remember?”, Lacie ignores him and keeps her eye on the vision of getting 5-star rated by all the elites at the wedding. She even refers to Ryan as “Mr. Three Point Fuck” and says how shameful she is living together with him. Her focus has been fully on having a 4.5 rating and that is what makes her happy, not how her brother feels and how they can communicate together. A world where emotions are not recognized and valued and all that matters are just numbers and others’ perspectives of you are such uncomfortable and disastrous.
All of these lead to the point that in the world of “Nosedive”, different perspectives exist, showing the variety of how people react to the social-media-based system. Some people, like Ryan, does not care about it at all and just continue living his normal life. His words to Lacie – “High fours like Naomi, I bet they’re suicidal on the inside” – state his vision clear: Those who try to get high rankings at any cost and succeed must have paid the price of losing their own happiness and true feelings. Meanwhile, some people decide to blend in with the race despite recognizing its costs, such as Lacie. In the end she gets led to a cell with probably a negative rating and finally realizes how stupid she has been risking everything to get a high ranking. This is best demonstrated when Lacie and the black man inside the cells begin to say everything that disturbs them of one another, which makes Lacie feel more comfortable than ever before. And there are also people who used to “win” the race but then realizes that being true to themselves is the most important thing and makes them comfortable, such as Susan the truck driver. All of these demonstrate that a social credit society raises different opinions, and thus show that people’s definitions of happiness and true values differ from one another.
Overall, it is stated that social media has huge impacts on the characters in “Nosedive”, especially on their habits, emotions and actions. A world like that is a complete Dystopia, and people living in that world will more or less find themselves stuck in the inescapable cycle of social credit ranking.