Are you using your mobile, or is your mobile using you? The latter is a fact when screenwriter Charlie Brooker portrays an absurd mobile dependent society in the Black Mirror Series Episode “Nosedive” (Netflix, Oct.26. 2016), making a statement as to how ridiculous our mobile fixated world has become. The theme for the episode is truly present, knowing that our society only 20 years ago hadn’t heard of the word “smartphone”. In this essay, I will summarise and highlight the main events of the episode as well as give my own thoughts regarding this dependency expansion. In Nosedive, society is formed by a mobile application resembling today’s social media.
Through this app, everyone is able to rate each other’s daily lives and behaviour from a scale between 0 and 5, which in turn affects their average score. The average score is to be publicly seen through chips implanted into people’s eyes and thereby it affects your social status as well as possibilities in life; work, dwelling etc. One of many embracing this kind of life is Lacie, the episode’s main character standing at a score of 4.2. Aiming for a 20 % discount to a luxury apartment, Lacie is in need of 4.5. Lacie talks to a consultant who suggests she would benefit from interacting with and impressing “high-quality people”, as positive ratings from these high-score people have greater impact on one’s average score than others. Lacie follows the consultant’s advice; she ignores people with lower scores and attracts the attention of people with higher scores.
An old (now highly-rated) friend notices Lacie and soon she is offered to be the maid of honour as well as to hold a speech at this friend’s wedding. This she happily accepts. She knows this could be a great opportunity to improve her rating, as the crowd at the wedding indeed are of high-quality. Thus, she focuses more on what daily actions improve her social status, rather than what will better her well-being and real relationships. Lacie’s brother, with whom she lives in the same apartment, points out this filtering habit. Unlike her, he does not care about the ratings. He misses the old Lacie, he says, and the conversations they had before the rating obsession. Lacie disagrees and is ashamed of her brother.
The arguing overruns, and so she arrives late to the airport. Her flight is cancelled, and with her current rating being 4.18 she cannot buy herself a new seat. Showing signs of frustration, a security guard appears and takes one full score from her average. She is now forced hitchhiking. No one is willing to help Lacie until a 1.4 offers a seat. Hesitatingly, Lacie hops on. The driver herself, a former 4.6, quit the rating obsession as her dying husband was refused treatment due to his low average. As Lacie hops off, her friend calls and tells her not to come to the wedding due to her drastically reduced score. Besides, she would miss the rehearsal dinner. Upset, nevertheless she arrives late. All attention is on her as she grabs the microphone, a knife and begins her speech. Her intimidating way leads to the crowd dropping her score to rock bottom. She then gets arrested and put in a cell. The rating system devices are removed from her body, and she starts to argue with her cell-neighbour. Even though they are physically trapped, mentally, they now seem to be free as the episode ends.
From my point of view, I think Nosedive not only describes our world in the near future, but also portrays the present society. One could think the episode is grossly exaggerated, but judging by how social media today grasps people, Instagram/Facebook and the rating system in Nosedive work essentially the same, to me absurd way. For instance, why are people hooked by likes and followers, just as in Nosedive? The reason why is, as stated by Professor Adam Alter (Business Insider, 2017), the fact that […]”those experiences produce dopamine, which is a chemical that’s associated with pleasure”. But, not only does social media make you feel good, as he continues: […]” everyone presents the very best versions of their lives […] which makes you feel like your life, in comparison with all its messiness, probably isn’t as good”. This makes you feel deprived, he says. In Nosedive, this is the exact same thing happening. Everyone filters themselves to appear interesting, well-behaving etc., to increase their rating. However, while Facebook and Instagram resembles Nosedive’s society with the ratings deciding your possibilities, there is in fact a place where the rating system has become reality, namely in China. The Chinese state is gradually […]”setting up a ranking system that will monitor the behaviour of its enormous population, and rank them all based on their “social credit””, Alexandra Ma from Business Insider reports (2018).
Let us add that this ranking, similarly to Nosedive, affects your possibilities in life. “Good” citizens can be offered discounts, renting without deposit and other facilitative arrangements, while “bad” citizens can be banned or restricted in several areas, such as travel, education and jobs. Unsurprisingly, residents have protested against the system on social media – which in a way resembles Lacie’s brother and his criticism. In Conclusion, Nosedive shows the path our world is heading towards. It seems like Nosedive’s portraying of society is not as exaggerated as one might think, as similar systems are to find in China. But, that does not mean the system itself is just that, exaggerated.