Lessons from Black Mirror

todayMarch 22, 2017 16

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By Alisa Pierce
Assistant Web Content Manager

Over the past twenty years or so, technology has taken hold of society in what some would say a terrifying way. Society no longer values anonymity, and instead opts to share anything and everything on the web. We all have a constant online presence that shows what we want others to see, as well as what we don’t want them to see. Through location sharing we leave digital traces of the places we go, the things we do, and the people we spend time with. We even let computer programs, such as consumer based ads, track our interests and shape the way we interact with the world. Although this all sounds like a controversial South Park episode, (it is!) it’s a real issue that many don’t know how to handle.

How should we handle it, anyway? Technology has never been entirely bad. Humanity has had technological advancements appear in almost every century of our history, from the printing press to the smart phone. The issue in this generation is that that many are wary about the way we can “watch” each other, or more importantly, the way others can watch us. The fear of Big Brother is strong, and more real than George Orwell could ever have made it seem in his novel 1984. Knowing everything about a person without actually knowing them is now a reality, whether we like it or not.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 3.02.30 PM
Black Mirror consists of 3 seasons that each have individual episodes that explore the dark possibilities that can come from our technology-driven culture. Photo via Netflix.com.

While society grapples with the power of technology, the arts have begun to absorb the fear of the people. What would the scariest movie be about, you ask? For many, it wouldn’t be about the unknown. It would be about the fears that they hope wouldn’t be realized. Modern TV shows and movies, such as Black Mirror and The Circle, have tapped into this fear to create realistic tales of technology overstepping its boundaries. As scary as they tend to be, however, shows like these have become insanely popular. Black Mirror, which has been compared to classics such as The Twilight Zone, has become one of Netflix’s most watched shows. The show itself warns of the dangers of technology and its impact on our culture through various alternate universes and futures, but the warnings in the show often fall on deaf ears.

If you have not yet watched Black Mirror, I will list an example from the series that stuck out to me the most. The first episode of season three, Nosedive, explores the intense lifestyle that literally revolves around social acceptance. The main character puts herself through many difficult events just to reach her maximum rating (on an app that resembles Instagram!) and to be accepted among the ‘elite’. Throughout the episode, we are shown how desperate the characters were for likes for their online profile. Sound familiar?

Do viewers really heed the warnings that Black Mirror focuses on, or are these shows just another way to desensitize people to what the future may hold? This is a serious question to ask yourself. As cool and intriguing as Black Mirror is, it might be another way for technology to take control of our lives. That sounds a bit extreme and I admit I’m probably looking too far into it. However, sometimes I wonder if our society really intends to address the issue of harmful technology or if we just want to enjoy the thought of it while ignoring where our digital footprints may lead. One way for Big Brother to trick us all into passivity is to convince us that there is nothing wrong with our lives, and while Black Mirror warns us of future terrors, it might be possible that through similar mediums we are simply becoming used to the idea of a dystopian future.

I truly hope that isn’t where we’re headed, but like Black Mirror warns, anything is possible.

Featured illustration by Ana Belen Cobos.

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