The short clip above is from the popular television series, Black Mirror. The episode it was drawn from is called “Fifteen Million Merits” and displays a glimpse into a dystopian future where society rides on exercise bikes in order to earn “merits”. The merits are a form of currency individuals use to purchase things such as tooth paste, remove ads, and potentially buy a spot on an American Idol spinoff called Hot Shot. As it is relevant here, I believe that this episode ridicules social media and societies attachment to it. Within the clip, specifically at 2:21 you can catch a glimpse of the main character Bing riding his exercise bike. On the screen you can see the equivalent of the modern day Bitmoji. To explain further, displayed is an animated version of Bing that looks almost exactly like him. This animated double is seen on the screen and rides a virtual bike through green pastures as Bing pedals on his stationary exercise bike in an enclosed room. I believe that this is a way for the television series to display how society is living their life through a screen. Today, on social media people can make their animated doubles and use them to communicate with others through both text messages and Snapchat. The show is trying to relay that society is slowly creating virtual lives and is neglecting the real world that exists outside. Within the episode, it seems as if an outside world does not even exist outside the confines of an enclosed room. We all clearly seem to enjoy using our bitmojis from time to time to communicate with others. However this episode displays how sometimes things social media and online identities can get slightly out of hand.
This episode directly relates to the writings of Erving Goffman in his work, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Goffman discusses how performances produce social relationships. We discussed in lecture how Goffman’s ideas directly relate to modern day uses of social media. Within social media, the participants create an identity. This identity displays social status and is also used to build relationships with others. As it is relevant here, within the clip you can see how every individual is living their lives through a virtual screen and has created their own identity through this medium to earn money and enact daily activities. This displays how Goffman was correct in his descriptions of how we present ourselves to others. Furthermore, Bing gathers all information about what is going on around him through the televisions and media outlets around him. This exemplifies what McLuhan was talking about as he discussed global theatres and how global telecommunications act like a newspaper. Black Mirror shows how society is slowing inching towards gathering all information online. Through outlets such as Twitter and Facebook users can discuss current events and gather nearly all information regarding what is going on around them. And furthermore, within the dystopian future displayed it is clear that the society is only gathering information from the visuals on the screens and the ads flashed in front of their faces on a daily basis.
Some questions for you to think about!
Do you predit that our society is heading towards something similar to the dystopia displayed in Black Mirror?
How do you portray yourself on socia media? Would you say it is an authentic identity?
Do you agree with Goffman and his ideas on how we present ourselves as way of performance?
Comments and responses welcome!