Dangers of Social Media (& The Dark Side of Keeping Up Appearances)

I feel inspired to write this post after watching a Netflix Show called Black Mirror.  It was one brilliant but tragic episode in particular that really hit home. It’s called ‘Nosedive’.

dangers of social media - zombies

In my eyes, it’s about the consequences of trying to keep up appearances (inflated lifestyle) and a dependence on social media (hence, the dangers of social media).

What is This Episode Of Nosedive About?

‘Nosedive’ is a satire on acceptance, and the image of ourselves we like to portray and project to others i.e. the ‘Instagram Lifestyle’.  The main character is called Lacey Pound, whose world is dominated by a ratings-based class structure system and who tries to please everyone.

Everyone in this screwed up society has an eye implant installed, which projects a rating screen where you can screen and rate people in the close vicinity (kind of like an eye web browser). It even filters out any imperfections in life (hmmm…Instagram).

It is a metaphor for seeing the world in rose-tinted spectacles.

Lacie is a lost soul desperately seeking social recognition, in a world where she thinks her value is equivalent to her social points or stars (the general public gain points or stars on meaningful interactions. As opposed to our likes/ upvotes/ downvotes on social media).

Everyone is living in this world of pretence, as they’re terrified of being ‘marked down’ (losing points or stars). Because the consequences of that are unpleasant i.e. not being accepted into the upper echelons of society.

The fake smiling, falseness, rewarding conformity and political correctness are sickening. Everything is sugar coated – at a diabetic level.

  • There’s a compulsive desire to impress all the time, hence false identities are adopted to impress others. At the same time, they end up losing their own identity.
  • Every interaction is artificial, where the general public is looking for something in return from one another.  Nothing in this society is genuine.
  • Everyone sees everybody as an opportunity and not as a possible friendship.  There’s no human good resulting in this system. No paying it forward.

Maybe this is the society we’re starting to become? a precursor to Nosedive? It’s actually so close to real life this episode, it’s quite frightening. Hence, the dangers of social media.

Is Our Society ‘Nosediving’/ Guilty of Keeping Up Appearances?

Don’t get me wrong, social media is a revolution in its own right and great for keeping up to date with friends and family.

I remember the once in a blue moon ‘ 100-pound’ phone calls to Australia back in the 1980’s when we tried to keep in touch with our relatives.  Or writing lots of letters that seemed to take forever to write.

Not forgetting using it for small business.

But there is as much wrong about Social Media…

There are a number of points we can take from ‘nosedive’/ Lacie, and compare them to our own social media-obsessed society:

1. Aspiring to an Illusion

I think Lacie and some of our society are aspiring to an illusion. The happiness of being in that class or world is an illusion, as these people are no better than you or I.  They just ‘appear’ to be.  The sad thing is, she will never be satisfied because she doesn’t really know why that would make her happy.

And I think some of our society is like that.  Always aspiring for more, thinking that an inflated lifestyle will make them feel happy.  When in the long term, it won’t.

2. Made to Look An Outlier in Society

Lacie feels a bit of an outlier or made to feel abnormal because she lacks an online presence.  It wasn’t long ago, I had a spat with someone.  They were harping on about my Facebook ID, but I already ditched Facebook in early 2016 (at least the personal account).

When they did ‘add me’, they then discovered I had no posts or interactions from 2016 on.  This caused even more of a ruckus.  Then the suspicions arose, which angered me even more.

In some ways, I see their point…

Even though I despise most social media, I still get my suspicions about other people not using it.  I guess I sound two-faced. I advertise a rental through a website where I’m Facebook verified.  If I don’t see my potential guest having Facebook verification, sometimes it makes me apprehensive.

So, is it more dangerous to be out, than in?

But at the end of the day, I think this person is a bit of a social robot, so they got downvoted by me.

3. Playing the ‘Game’

Lacie wasn’t naturally very good at this social media ‘game’.  So, in a society where the availability and the cost of things are so heavily influenced by charisma and social success, the consequences of being quite the opposite are not so good.

Unfortunately, our society has rewards for charisma that are ludicrous, and unfair if you are on the losing end of them.

And social networks like Facebook and co are programmed to enforce these charisma rules. So, it’s no respite if you’re not in with Kool and the gang. In fact, it’s a source of isolation and depression for the not so popular.  Aka skulking.

4. So, What’s the Truth?

What is the real truth about social media? Are they the messages that garner the most attention or emotion? Of course not. We can’t make judgements based on emotions, it has to be real facts.

A social media dominated society encourages over emotional individuals, they play on our weaknesses.

dangers of social media - truman show

5. The Real Dark Side to Social Media

The real dark side of the spectrum is influencing elections i.e. The Cambridge Analytica scandal

6. What Has Society Succumbed to?

A good colleague of mine was travelling in Dublin a few years back and caught a taxi ride from the airport into town.  The taxi driver talked passionately about the state of today’s society. He summed it up in one really.  Society used to look up to great actors like Marlon Brando and Katherine Hepburn.

But now a lot of young folk aspire to and follow reality TV stars.  This is what society has succumbed to.

My Nosedive In Society

I guess this episode resonated with me, as I once saw myself as Lacey Pound. An absolute nightmare on Facebook (and Instagram).  I was using aesthetics to gain digital attention. Got to wear the right thing, have the perfect backdrop and adopt the right pose. Someone pass the sick bucket, please.

The more validation I received, the happier I was.  It eventually got me into trouble though, checking into my friend’s house and sharing my post across the globe.  My friend’s wife got frantic, in case her home’s co-ordinates got into the wrong hands.

I also posted a pic at my friend’s wedding in France.  The backdrop was lovely, with the classic wedding car in the foreground. But it happened to be raining at the time and the couple weren’t impressed with the timing of the shot. 

And they’re correct. I wanted to keep up appearances, even if it meant p!ssing folk off.

I also spent too much time ‘checking in’ to different places and living a ‘James Bond Lifestyle’.

So, It ended up costing me time, money and getting me into ‘situations’.  I started asking myself, where was all this leading to?

I stopped posting when I decided to go on the official path of FIRE and knuckle down.

I’m not against mainstream social media as per say, I use it for blogging and keep up to speed with Linkedin for relevant projects thast may arise. But I don’t use it for personal use now.  But each to their own.

Dangers of Social Media & The Frightening Future

The scary thing is, China is in the midst of implementing a similar setup to what we witness in ‘Nosedive’. Ok, they’re not adopting eye implants, but their citizens are going to be controlled and monitored through their own social rating system.  It’s called the ‘National Social Credit System.’

The Chinese government wants the basic structures of this Social Credit System to be in place by 2020.

The goal is raising the awareness for integrities and the level of credibility within society.  It presents as a means to perfect the socialist market economy as well as strengthening and innovating governance of society.  This indicates that the Chinese government views it both as a means to regulate the economy at a business level and as a tool of governance to steer the behaviour of citizens.

dangers of social media - government surveillance banksy
Classic Banksy – Strong message against government surveillance

The Chinese government aims at assessing the trustworthiness and compliance of each person.  Data stems both from peoples’ own accounts, as well as their network’s activities. Website operators can mine the traces of data that we leave and derive a full social profile, including e.g. peoples’ location, friends, health records, insurance, private messages, financial situation, gaming duration, smart home statistics, preferred newspapers, shopping history, and dating behaviour.

Once implemented the system will manage the rewards, or punishments, of citizens on the basis of their economic and personal behaviour. Some types of punishments could be flight bans, exclusion from private schools, slow internet connection, exclusion from high prestige work, exclusion from hotels, registration on a public blacklist.

When the Social Credit System rolls out the final touches, it will constitute a new way of controlling both the behaviour of individuals and of businesses.

You can already see the dangers of social media.

Takeaway

For me, keeping up appearances comes at a price. And not just a financial one. This episode captures this exquisitely. The social message, the ethics and the philosophy make this an incredible episode.

We take for granted individuality. But it is the differences that assure human kind’s survival and not conformity as portrayed in this episode.

Our society is not quite on that level, but it’s not far behind either.

Unfortunately, a similar sort of social rating system is in the validation process in China.  This is actually happening.  Punishments, government surveillance and possible exclusion from high prestige work? This is when a society loses humanism.  Again, the dangers of social media.

With regards to the ending of the actual episode. I don’t want to give too much away.  But it’s a very liberating one…

Now I would like to hear from you in the comments:

  • Has keeping up appearances got you into trouble…or into debt?
  • Have you experienced any dark sides of social media?
  • What’re your thoughts on where social media is heading?

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