Many “Black Mirror” episodes show the dangers of being obsessed with social media. With each of those episodes, there is always the consequence of becoming too involved. The episodes “Be Right Back” and “Nosedive” are two examples. While they may not share the same dangers, they both show how social media obsession can affect someone.
In these two episodes, too much social media use begins to harm the characters. In “Nosedive,” the main character, Lacie, is obsessed with her social media presence. She tries to increase her rating in any way possible. It quickly begins to impact her and almost destroys her.
In the Origin News article Dangers Lurk In Social Media; Is there too much emphasis being placed on it?, Stephen A. Greenburg writes, “Anyone using social media will acknowledge the inordinate amount of time required to maintain an active, topical and interesting online presence.” Lacie’s life goal is to increase her social media presence, and it steals her life outside social media.
Her decent into social media perfection drives her crazy. In a sense, she loses everything. Family and friends disappear, and everything she has worked for vanishes. She cannot control her obsession, so everything and everyone is pushed away. At her lowest point, she finds freedom in losing her social media presence. It takes the loss of the most important thing in her life to find freedom.
Being obsessed with social media has proven to be a problem in today’s world. Instagram has removed public likes on their platform to help alleviate issues.
In the Esquire article Why Is Instagram Removing Likes? It’s Probably Not To Help Your Mental Health, Olivia Ovenden writes that “The pressure with posting is too great.” This is part of the issue in “Nosedive.” Lacie is concerned with her rating, essentially her likes. They are what drives her to find a fantasy world she does not really live in.
Social media plays a similar role in “Be Right Back.” The main character’s boyfriend, Ash, is obsessed with being on social media like Lacie in “Nosedive.” Ash is not very attentive when on his phone, and it costs him a lot. He loses his life, in what the viewer can only infer to be a car accident caused by using his phone while driving.
While his social media obsession is seen in that, it is not the true danger of social media in this episode. The real danger comes from his girlfriend, Martha, using his social media history to recreate him as an artificial human. This artificial human sounds and looks like Ash, but it is just a shell of a former person.
In the Social media + Society article Researching the Ends of Identity: Birth and Death on Social Media, Tama Leaver, associate professor of internet studies at Curtin University, writes, “Partners, loved ones, families, estates, business partners, and many others may have a vested interest in the digital traces left behind after someone dies. Those traces may have archival or historical value.”
A loved one having interest in archival value of social media could cause many issues. A person, like Ash, has passed away, and they cannot control how their past history is used. They cannot give consent to have their social media history used to recreate who they once were.
This shows how dangerous being too active on social media can be. Ash was so active, Martha could more than partially recreate him. If someone in the near future can recreate a speech pattern and voice of a lost loved from their social media usage, imagine what else can be done.
While making an artificial human may currently be out of reach, “Be Right Back” is using this story to teach the audience how dangerous social media could be. Currently, social media data is used in many ways. One of the most common is through marketing. Data is sold to companies, so they know what type of products to push to feeds. If a marketing company can use past data to push advertisements, imagine what other groups can do.
Both of these episodes shed light on the dangers of too much social media usage. While it happened in different ways, Lacie and Ash both lost their lives to and were corrupted by social media. Lacie became someone her friends and family did not recognize. Ash died from using his phone while driving, his identity was stolen from his social media accounts, and Martha lost the person she loved.