Taking a Mirrored Look at Smithereen!
I don't know about you but I am a HUGE Black Mirror fan. I might have to do a complete re-watch of the entire series soon. For those of you who watched the latest season, you would know about the episode titled Smithereens. Which is an episode about a rideshare driver named Chris who kidnaps an intern (who he first assumes is a company executive) from the Smithereen office and demands to talk to the CEO of Smithereen. Which is more or less like Twitter in our reality. Chris uses the intern as leverage and takes him for hostage threatening to kill the man if he doesn't speak to the CEO.
🚨 SPOILER ALERT! 🚨This particular post will contain spoilers of the episode, so if you haven't watched it already please CLICK AWAY!
The Effects of Social Media
One of the most jaw-dropping moments in the episode is when the COO, Penelope Wu (an obvious reference to Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook) is in a board room with some other executives and the FBI. She scans his information on their system and quite shockingly found more information on him and all of his likely behaviors using their language analysis more so than the FBI. This brings up the question how are these social media sites really monitoring us? I've touched on this topic briefly on my other posts, but I didn't do a deep dive like this.
I do talk about the effect social media has on our mental health, and this episode goes in great detail of how dangerous social media could really be if we don't cut out the addiction. Again, I say this as a social media manager myself, social media should only be viewed a few time a day, not something you should be spending hours on. Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook executive says in a 2017 Stanford interview
"The short term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem. This isn't about Russian ads. This is a global problem."
Is Social Media an Addiction?
In the episode when Chris finally gets to talk to Billy Baur (who puts on "God mode" and calls him directly ignoring Penelope's and the FBI's advice) he says he has lost control of how the site actually works. That they purposely place algorithms that keep on you on the site for a lot longer than you should be (hmmm sound familiar? Looking at you Facebook!), In the episode there is a brief scene, where two teenagers who witnessed the car going off into the fields with a bunch of police cars standing back, goes on Smithereen and starts talking about it. It was such a great minute into the society of the Black Mirror universe where it showed people cared more about what is happening to their social media pages rather than what is happening in front of them.
Likes or Artificial Validation?
I've made no secret that I jumped on the social media train way before it was even a thing. It was addictive from the start but I had no idea that corporations were going to use it as a tool in their marketing belt. While I saw it as a lucrative opportunity (this is why I can't completely knock it guys), it's actually creating a society where we feel empty inside if none of our posts get likes. Which is complete BS guys, and I did write a post about Instagram taking away the like feature, which I believe they are starting to roll out right now. If you are looking at social media to get validation then there are other problems in your life besides your social media addiction.
Billy Bauer isn't meant to be one specific CEO, although his mannerisms reflect Mark Zuckerberg's quite a bit. It's been said that the meditation retreat Billy takes in the episode is very similar to the one Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, took in Myanmar in December. Billy says to one of the assistants to finds him in his retreat in Utah "one of the best parts about his job is that he can sometimes go into " 'God-mode' "as he directly calls Chris. This is especially profound considering how much we have heard of companies like Facebook and Twitter gathering all of our information and essentially spying on us. I've often joked about how much Facebook must be spying on me all the time since they practically listen in to our every conversation. I think everyone can tell a story about how many times Facebook showed them an ad about something from a live conversation they had with someone else.
The Big Question
Is social media a drug? Yes, it absolutely is! Similar to how the internet was viewed as a drug when it was in its infancy in the '90s. As Billy Bauer admits in the episode, it's out of his control. However, to the contrary, Sean Parker, one of the early investors and founders of Facebook said that they all knew what they were doing and they did it anyway because they wanted to turn a profit. It leads to a powerful discussion, are we all feeding into this monster? I could be, and so could you! Hell, you probably got this blog post from my social media pages! I believe social media could be a very good thing if we let it be, if we want to make it better, then it's up to us to make it better. Talking about how we should "delete Facebook" isn't really going to solve anything, it's how do we fix this dopamine problem that we all have to get and receive likes from all of these platforms!
Nobody is Perfect!
Hey, I get it! We all use the platforms for hours on end every day. We all need that "hit" of dopamine to make ourselves feel better. However, I make sure my experience on all of these platforms is very good experiences. I unfollow the toxic people, and I am in high vibe groups that uplift and support each other. You can do this too! Creating more positive experiences on social media will lead to a more positive outlook on it rather than the "fake news" and "Russian bots" BS we see all the time. Social media is what you make of it at the end of the day.