Of all nineteen episodes of Black Mirror, the third season premiere, “Nosedive,” was the hardest for me to watch.
There was no bestiality, no murder, no consciousness-transfer. It wasn’t as shocking as “White Bear” or as disturbing as “Black Museum.” Sure, there was advanced technology, but it was nothing like the synthetic husband in "Be Right Back."
The reason “Nosedive” is so hard to stomach is that, of all the episodes, it’s the one that hits closest to home.
“Nosedive” imagines a society in which every interaction you have contributes to your rating; if you’re nice to your barista, he’ll give you a good rating, but making a cab driver wait will drop your rating. It’s a world in which everything you do, say, or post will either make you or break you.
Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) needs to get her rating up to a 4.5 so she can move into a nice neighborhood. She is invited to the wedding of an old friend from school (Alice Eve), who mentions the guest list has many influential people on it who just might boost Lacie’s score. Things don’t go as planned, however, and her rating drops down to a 2. This sends her into a downward spiral that lands her in jail (without her phone), where she can finally say what she wants without worrying about the repercussions.
“Nosedive” was hard to watch because of how accurately it mirrored reality. I saw myself in Lacie; as I watched, I thought, how often have I posted a photo and been disappointed to get only a handful of likes, or worries that my post wasn’t smart/funny/good enough?
Too many times.
I watched Lacie obsess over her rating and then lose her mind as it dropped lower and lower. I knew her reactions were irrational, yet I understood her struggle. When everyone else seems to have a picture-perfect life, you feel the need to have your own.
After watching this episode, I took a long look at my social media behavior. I don’t want to be like Lacie. So I had to make some changes. I asked myself two questions:
How much of my time was spent on social media?
And how often did it affect my mood?
The answers were simple. I spent way too much time on social media, and it affected my mood pretty easily. If I got twelve likes on a photo, I felt like a failure; if I got forty, I felt successful. Hours of my time were spent scrolling through other people's lives so I could figure out how I should live my own.
The first thing I did was delete my Snapchat account. I rarely used it, but was on it all the time. I constantly felt the need to check everyone’s story updates, or to read Cosmopolitan articles. It was a relief to close my account and delete the app.
Next, I scrolled through my Facebook friends. Facebook is a great way for me to stay in touch with relatives and friends who live far away, yet so many of my friends are coworkers and acquaintances. I unfriended people I like, and it was incredibly freeing. Though nervous at first, I realized that I have every right to share what I want with who I want. Then I did the same thing with Instagram.
I don’t post my imperfections; I’ve carefully crafted an image of myself that I want others to see. But it’s dangerous because that’s exactly what everyone else is doing. That means I’m comparing my flaws to the “perfect” lives of others. I keep track of how many followers they have, how many likes their photos get, and how often they’re posting. This behavior is unhealthy, considering how much of what we post is staged.
The world I saw portrayed on Black Mirror was scary, but even scarier is the knowledge that we’re not far from that reality. “Nosedive” disturbed me enough to change my social media habits, and I don't think I'll ever be as addicted as I was.