The question of the relationship between technology and identity is fairly well-worn, and has been asked on many occasions throughout history. Yet it is also timeless, as people have constantly found new ways of posing it without becoming repetitive. I encountered a fairly novel way of posing this question recently while watching the first episode of Black Mirror’s third season (entitled “Nosdive”). For those of you who are unfamiliar, the show is a sci-fi anthology show (often compared to The Twilight Zone) that reflects on modern life.
Without giving away too much, the episode is based in a future where you are ranked through a social media platform on all your social interactions. Everyone has an aggregate ranking, which determines their place in society. People whose score is close to 5 (the highest score) are embraced, while people with scores below 2 are shunned. Needless to say, the world is an omniopticon where everyone’s behavior is policed by everyone else’s, down to the very mannerisms you use when eating or how you glance at passerbys. This world even has social media consultants whose job it is to coach you on how to improve your score. While seemingly perfect on the outside, the episode does a good job revealing the anguish, frustration, and pent up rage each person carries within them in such a society. Curious how similar this narrative is to the models philosophers use in describing the relationship between social media and our identity, I found the following sources:
- Mehreen Kasana, “Feminisms and the Social Media Sphere,” Women’s Studies Quarterly, Fall/Winter 2014.
- Stephen Seligman, “Psychoanalytic Ideals, New Technologies, and the Expropriations of the Corporate Self: Commentary on Paper by Stephen Hartman,” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, July/August 2011.
- Jaume Aurell, “Rethinking historical genres in the twenty-first century,” Rethinking History, June 2015.
- Daniel Surry and Fredrick Baker III, “The co-dependent relationship of technology and communities,” British Journal of Educational Technology, January 2016.
- Christina Batella et al., “The Present and Future of Positive Technologies,” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, February 2012.
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