By: Hannah Bernabe
*SPOILER ALERT: Nosedive and Hate in the Nation are episodes in Season 3 of Black Mirror. If you haven’t watched these episodes, you have been warned.*
A modern take on the Twilight Zone, Black Mirror’s third season is not holding back on how the dark capabilities of technology can be. One thing that I’ve noticed about Black Mirror is that no matter how cutting edge and advantageous technology is in the show, human nature is the deciding factor on how positive or negative this type of technology will become.
One part of the digital age that is very present in the world today is social media. Whether we like it not, there is no denying how much social media has taken a strong hold of our modern social norms. Social media has grown to dictate parts of our lives that we didn’t think it had the power to do so. This dark power is one of the latest technological black holes Charlie Brooker explored with two episodes in the third installment of Black Mirror.
The season’s first episode, “Nosedive,” which stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Alice Eve, takes place in an alternate reality where your internet status dictates almost every part of one’s life. The software creates a rating system, wherein the higher the rating, the better the likelihood of being in a higher paying job, and better living situation- and even what car you rent. Lacie (Howard) and Naomi (Eve) are childhood friends who are in opposite ends of the spectrum.
Lacie works hard to earn her ratings, purposely changing key parts of herself in order to essentially have a better life. With her old friend’s wedding (Eve) being the turning point of how her future will be, Lacie reaches a crossroads of really figuring out how essential an internet persona is. The end of “Nosedive” results with our protagonist in a jail cell, dirty and humiliated.
But without the prison of the social media rating system, Lacie- for once in a long time- finally felt free to say, do and feel what she truly feels. “Nosedive” is more than a cautionary tale, it is a frighteningly close to the digital reality that we are living in, whether we want to admit it or not.
The season’s last episode bookends the overarching theme of social media excess. “Hate in the Nation” highlights the horrors of hate found in social media platforms. Trainspotting and No Country For Old Men star Kelly Macdonald leads the ensemble of this episode as a lead detective Karin Parke, who was assigned a case of mysterious deaths of very infamous public figures. With the help of digital crime, artificial bees and the lethal power of hashtag warfare, “Hate in the Nation” asks: what if social media can supersede the police and the government, allowing normal people to punish who they believe needs to be punished?
Fueled by a simple #DeathTo Twitter hashtag, “Hate in the Nation” is all but a cautionary tale of the terrors of online mob lynching. We see this rampant through Internet trolling, cyberbullying and Internet hate speech. In the climax of the episode, “Hate in the Nation” uses the online public’s need to put its two cents in as the result of a mass genocide of a specific kind of people: people who have no qualms promoting hateful speech on the Internet.
Let’s face it, our internet personas- whether it be Facebook, Instagram or the like- has subconsciously dictated parts of our overall online social community. We often forget that our lives are careful curations, highlighting chosen good (and bad) moments in one’s life.
Bryce Dallas Howard’s powerful performance leading up to the climax in Nosedive is a chilling reminder that what we choose to show people shouldn’t dictate who we truly are as people. Kelly Macdonald’s realization that our digital age has made us feel like an online judge and jury, results in death that can never be rationalized.
What we need to remember is that while social media and the digital age is on a fast track to being a core part of our society, it cannot replace acts of human compassion, empathy and the rawness of individual. No amount of likes and rates should result in end of the human condition.