‘Nosedive’ Reminds Society What Will Happen If They Do Not Escape the Hedonic Treadmill

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Sophia Meruvia

“Nosedive” explores a world in which social media controls society’s every move, but what happens when that becomes the current reality? The popular “Black Mirror” episode envisions a world in which glancing the wrong way at a man walking on the street, or accepting gifts from a coworker could determine a person’s status, wealth, or even the house they were able to purchase.

“Nosedive” uses tricky psychology to portray the age old message – “Social media will not make us happy.” In Lacie’s world, every time a human interaction takes place, a rating is given.

Hedonic treadmill” is a term used by psychologists to define the feeling of a happiness boost people feel for only a short amount of time. The hedonic treadmill is a theory that “people return to their baseline level of happiness, regardless of what happens to them.”

Lacie is constantly chasing rainbows, feeling a short serotonin boost before she moves on to the next high. Attaining small goals will never be enough, as she must do bigger and better to feel a higher rush.

Are we as society fueled by the hedonic treadmill? Studies show that humans are born with a set predisposition of happiness. No matter the circumstances, the preset point of happiness will always return, regardless of the situation.

During studies conducted by Brickman’s and Campbell’s original research (1971), it was revealed that happiness did not appear to be long-lasting, and most humans generally return back to a set predisposition of happiness. This is true among most social media users. The rush society feels from a short influx of likes, more comments than usual on a post, or even brand users reaching out – are feelings that are all short lived.

Society is forever chasing a social media high to be bigger, better and even one step ahead than the competition. Lacie is no different. The desire to improve her life, ironically, is what ruins it. She is the human form of the hedonic treadmill, but will she ever escape? Will society ever escape?

Lacie is constantly putting on a face for social media and the world, showing only the best version of herself at all times. This leads her to feel drained and run-down. Authenticity is thrown out the door for a glossed-over version of life. However, by the end of the episode, viewers learn how to escape the hedonic treadmill.

Lacie begins to stop caring, stop the obsession with being perfect, and begins to become an unhinged version of herself. Her behavior becomes extreme, revealing her true nature. She feels freedom off of the hedonic treadmill. A sharp relief fills her as she begins to see who she was all along.

The idea that social media will never make society happy is true. Genuine human interactions are replaced by Instagram DMs, SnapChat selfies, and double taps on photos of cars, bags, and animals. Becoming a slave to social media is easily possible.

“Nosedive” reminds society what will happen if they do not escape the hedonic treadmill. They could become a robot-like society in which human interaction is void and unreal. The carousel of control people feel while using social media is always temporary. The very design of social media encourages this feeling and behavior.

“Black Mirror” creators are ultimately trying to warn society what is to come if change doesn’t happen. This change, however, is mostly up to a person’s moral discretion. Does social media really make humans happy? Is the short-lived rush really worth the long term effects? “Black Mirror” would like society to ask themselves these questions.

Lacie is a bleak and tragic warning to society. The hedonic treadmill is entirely too easy to get off, but social media makes humans feel trapped and muted. Social media has society wrapped around it’s fingers – and forever chasing a temporary serotonin boost.

“Nosedive” serves as a reminder to society to be mindful, find meaning in everyday interactions, and gives peoplepermission to be human and make mistakes. Social media will not make society happy, and can rarely replace the happiness received from a genuine human interaction.

So, escape the hedonic treadmill – and go find meaning in everyday life. The treadmill does stop – if it is allowed.

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