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  • Writer's pictureKaty Craig


Black Mirror Season 3, Episode 1.

A woman desperate to boost her social media score hits the jackpot when she's invited to a swanky wedding. But the trip doesn't go as planned. Image taken from Netflix thumbnail.

"Nosedive" is the first episode of the third season of the science fiction anthology series Black Mirror that explores the dangers of living in a society where social media ratings dictate one's social and professional standing. In this world, your personal worthiness is determined by how many "likes" or "stars" you have. This is similar to how the US FICO score determines your creditworthiness and how China’s system of social credits determines your social worthiness (in use since 2017).

The episode follows the story of Lacie, a young woman who is obsessed with improving her social media rating in order to secure a highly coveted apartment in a posh, exclusive singles community. In this society, people rate each other on a scale of one to five stars after every social interaction, and these ratings have a major impact on one's quality of life. Higher social media ratings allow for better job opportunities, discounts on services, and access to exclusive events, while lower ratings can lead to discrimination and social isolation. For Lacie to be able to afford a new apartment, she has to raise her score from 4.2 to 4.5 to qualify for the discount and afford the cost.

Social credit systems encourage transactions between people that are predictable, orderly, and compliant, which is useful for governing. It’s excellent for controlling society but terrible for trust, authenticity, and connection between people. When everyone is incentivized to earn high scores from other people, authentic human interactions and genuine emotion slowly die off. Nothing awkward or cringe worthy is allowed unless you want to get a low score. And since the scores are pure numbers, the more you get, the less a low one will impact your average. So, the incentives are designed to make you score others and make you seek the highest scores from others at every opportunity. As Lacie becomes more and more desperate to increase her rating, she finds herself compromising her values and behaving inauthentically in order to please others.

Throughout the episode, we see how Lacie's obsession with her rating affects her relationships and her own sense of self. After a shower, we see Lacie practicing her smile and laughter in the mirror. Her fake laugh is shrill and loud. Augmented reality lets her see her social score to the right of and slightly above her head in the mirror. The vast majority of people in Lacie's world have cyber implants in their eyes, so they can see the names and scores of every person they meet. Even those not chasing social scores (numbers in the low 1s) have visible numbers, although how those are “attached” to people is not explained. Perhaps the government assigns an identifier to you, and the world can and does judge you regardless of whether you know or care or not. As long as you have the eye implants, you can see everyone’s scores. Lacie is a 4.2 out of 5 stars.

As the episode goes on, Lacie becomes more anxious and unhappy as she tries to keep up a perfect front, and she ends up pushing away the people she cares about. Despite all her efforts to raise her score, it continues to plummet towards 0. The episode also touches on the theme of the dangers of technology and social media. It shows how these tools can be used to manipulate and control people, and it suggests that our reliance on them can lead to a lack of genuine human connection and a decline in our sense of self. She becomes increasingly anxious and unhappy as she tries to maintain a façade of perfection, and she begins alienating the people around her.

The lesson of "Nosedive" is that it can be dangerous and destructive to try to get approval and status from other people. It highlights the dangers of living in a society where people's worth is judged based on their social media presence, and it serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of staying true to oneself and valuing one's own happiness and fulfillment above external validation. Lacie starts to care so much about her rating that she loses sight of what really matters to her, which leads to a mental breakdown. The episode ends optimistically (in my interpretation) with Lacie screaming profanities at the top of her lungs, and this viewer believes she is ultimately saved from the system.

Overall, "Nosedive" is a thought-provoking commentary on the dangers of living in a society that values external validation and social status above all else. It serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of staying true to oneself and valuing one's own happiness and fulfillment above external validation.


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