What has black mirror taught us about technology so far?

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Not only is each episode in Black Mirror eerily entertaining and mind-twisting, but they all highlight the issues regarding humanity’s relationship with technology. Below are some of the themes we’re exposed to in this thought-provoking series. Warning – spoilers ahead!

Communication technologies often exploit our need for validation. 

Communication technologies, such as social media often increase our need for validation, as we judge our worth on how many likes, comments, views and shares we receive. 

In Nosedive, we are transported to a world where people can give each other a positive or negative rating after they share any interaction. Like social media, this rating system increases everyone’s need for approval and causes them to suppress any negative emotion in fear of being “downvoted” by their peers.

In Be Right Back, a widow is given the opportunity to have her partner’s personality replicated in an identical body to help her cope with the loneliness and pain. However, she realises that whilst the robot is similar to her husband, it will never truly replicate his quirks and natural responses. 

In both episodes, we are taught that social media platforms only act as another medium for us to seek validation from others, and how this constant search for approval is a lost cause.

Technology has the ability to encourage human evil – but isn’t necessarily evil itself. 

Creator of the series, Charlie Brooker has maintained that technology is merely a facilitator for human evil rather than being responsible for it. The evil of technology is a theme explored heavily in the earlier seasons. 

In Hated in the Nation, an artist takes it upon himself to create a real-life elimination game on a Twitter-like platform, where each day users can vote who they think deserves to be “eliminated” using the hashtag #DeathTo and the person’s name. Little do they know; this artist has also planned to kill everyone who participates in the game as part of an artistic statement – sending the message that the selfish actions of the public and their disregard for human life make them just as guilty as those who are voted. Therefore, this innocent social platform was used as an accessory for evil. 

This mimics the “cancel culture” that is prevalent in our world today. With greater access to social media, the private lives of celebrities, influencers and public figures are increasingly displayed. Celebrities who express questionable or unpopular opinions are often boycotted or “cancelled”. This cancel culture is toxic as it doesn’t allow people the capacity to learn from their mistakes. 

Technology complicates relationships.

Although most of the technologies displayed in the show exaggerate what we have access to now, the series still delivers important messages about the way technology intervenes in our relationships.

Tinder and dating are taken to the extreme in Hang the DJ, where paired up couples can see exactly how long the relationship is meant to last. Eventually, the data gathered from each relationship is supposed to lead the person to their one true match. However, one pair rebels against the system – teaching us that love cannot be man-made. 

A mother-daughter relationship is destroyed in Arkangel after a mother installs a device in her daughter’s brain so she can see through her daughter’s eyes. This episode parodies parental tracking apps, delivering the message that being overbearing and cautious won’t always ensure safety for your children. In the end, the lack of privacy and trust caused the daughter to resent her mother. 

The media and the entertainment industry are flawed.

Fifteen Million Merits presents a satirical take on entertainment shows and society’s insatiable thirst for distraction. 

In The National Anthem, a kidnapper forces the prime miniSter to fornicate with a pig on live television in order to secure the release of a royal princess he is holding hostage. It is revealed that the kidnapper’s motive was to make a statement about people’s obsession with the media and how we are fixated on humiliation and shock value. As part of the newest season, Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too, comments on the way the music industry exploits artists into making vapid, meaningless music at the expense of their health. 

Overall, Black Mirror is a breath-taking attempt at showing us what our lives are with technology and the consequences that could very well follow if we are not careful. 

Isabella Granero

Isabella is a third-year Communications (Journalism) student who loves writing about technology, society and culture.…

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