Human beings are a social animals! This is a saying that has been said so many times in the world of sociology, psychology and other aspects of “logies” that aspire and strive to deconstruct meaning to the nature of the bi pedal meat guzzling, sky scraper building, and the not too eco savvy species that’s had been roaming the earth ever since the first ape like creatures had started walking the earth 4 million years ago (according to the evolutionists) or ever since Adam and eve were created (if creationism is your cup of tea that is). However, even if human beings started out in singles it was only logical they operate in numbers for all intents and purposes since it takes two to procreate and a village to fend off attackers and coexist. Because let’s face it, if you were faced with a sabre tooth tiger or a prehistoric lion a one on one combat will only end in your demise a brutal and decapitated one that is but makes that a ten on one or twenty on one and you will not only walk away with your precious life but also some souvenir leopard print hide or a lion’s head souvenir that will look magnificent on your wall. Or so I would like to think as such
The meager act of banding among these ape like creatures was something of a phenomenon, as they evolved and grew in skills and brain power they started to realize the numbers game is far more effective than warding off predators. As they hang out all day and all night the alpha males and females began to emerge from the masses. They realized that being a that person makes you into some one worthy of emulation. If the alpha male killed two boars with a single spear all his peers would try to achieve such feat because that would garner them his approval which could mean the very difference between life and death in such times as it could spell the difference between biting the dirt or biting some juicy stake. In case of the females despite the application of the same rule the techniques were more subtle, an alpha female was the hands down best home maker of the village. Followed by her doe eyed bees she exercises a more potently powered social mechanism which serves as a checking mechanism that keeps people in line and restores order.
Jump a couple of millennia and the these phenomenon evolved into something more concrete. Social proofing, shaming, popularity, acceptance are the ideas that shaped the people’s social lives of the contemporary world. In a world where having friends being popular or being a celebrity can open doors for you where as the commoners have no choice but peer curiously and resentfully behind the closed gates. But I digress, the inspiration for this article came from an episode of a tv series that came across my path as a form of suggestion from a friend; entitled “Black Mirror”. Let me paint you a back story so you will acclimatize yourselves,
Black Mirror is a British science fiction television anthology series created by Charlie Brooker and centred around dark and satirical themes that examine modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Particularly “Nose Dive” which is The third season first episode of series recounts the tale of a world where people rate each other on a scale of 5 stars; if you have a rating of more than 4 stars you were a celebrity and you had less than two you were considered a social pariah. It’s a situation where popularity pays; literally if you have more than four stars you were given discounts everywhere, allowed into events will be served first than others in a restaurant. Sounds familiar? Wait for it…all those ratings are reaped by posting a picture or video on a social media platform which is eerily reminiscent of Facebook and getting favorable comments. Coupled with contact lenses that one puts in one’s eye and you get a walking social media virtual reality that produces unyielding and harsher first impression mechanism that would put even the shallowest person in the world to shame. Imagine the scenario where you meet someone on the street and before he/ she opens his mouth to say hi a pop out appears says he has a 1 star so you move away lest your star rating drops because you interacted with a person of low rating.
Lacie pound (Bryce Dallas Howard ) the protagonist of the story lives in such world. She posts cute pics of coffees and teddy bears in hopes of getting likes while avoiding interactions with people of lower ratings as you would a plague. She maniacally flash super insincere smiles at random strangers and attendants to get better reviews she’s nice to everyone and anyone who can get her that additional star of course the very fact that such people might be less than morally stable is not lost on her yet she perseveres in her pursuit by playing door mat to them even her school acquaintance naomi (Alice Eve) who had slept with her boy friend and made life a hell . Because she wants that work promotion and that luxurious house which wont be accessible to her unless she hits the 4.5 mark. So to quote Ava Gardner ”she works the crowd”. at first glance one might have the misconception that Lacie is an out going and caring person but scenes where she obsessively like pictures of people with higher ratings shatter the illusion quite spectacularly. I’m tempted to tell the whole story at the risk of spoiling the endings for those who hadn’t seen it.
so in a manner befitting the colloquialism art imitates life, this story depicts the rise and prominence of social media in our lives with dystopian accuracy. While the facts are plain to see we simply seek to ignore them. The seemingly hollow Facebook status updates that begs the question of it’s raison d’etre, the endless barrage of photo posts and comment threads to the constant update of people’s mood, feeling, activity…the list is endless. so why does people do this? Well according to sociologists this conforms to our communal nature, like our ancestors before us we band together and form our community, we set our codes of conducts and abide by it and anyone who isn’t adhering to our ways will be ostracized and shunned. And instances where we want to belong to a certain clique or not unsure of how to act on certain situations we use what‘s known as “social proofing” to mirror the conduct of those who are already in the group to spare ourselves the dread. The same principle applies in social network platforms, now a days asking work applicants to provide their social media usernames had become a common trend among employers who go through months of status updates and comments of the user to get a feel of his/her personality. so people spend hours trying to make online friends get likes and loves on their interesting status updates in search of acceptance. in cases where they come across bullies their self worth plummets to the ground.
However, this trend seems to be continuing at an alarming rate engulfing people’s life. According to recent researches 2.03 billion people in the world use social media platforms, while 1.23 billion of those people log onto such sites for 17 minutes each day searching updates, news threads or just chatting, popular sites as Instagram and twitter boast 5 million and 500 million posts per day. 60 -80% of the world’s working population spends their work hours on social medias.
Hence, as I finished watching the episode one comment haunted the recess of my mind clanking a trail of questions in its wake, is it a tale that simply cries wolf or a dystopian prophesy destined to fulfill itself, and that’s my friend where I shall leave you…
By: Misak Workneh
Misak works as a translator for kana television while his interests lie in the art of photography and cineastes among others.