Unreal Reality

Civic imagination has become such a frequent topic in recent years that it has begun to bridge the gap between thinking and doing – which may be the goal. An example I fondly remember is one from Black Mirror, a popular series of stand-alone episodes. The episode I am referring to is called, “Nosedive.” The show tends to be very satirical and this episode in specific was a play on social media: the perfect canvas for civic imagination.

In short, the episode setting is the midst of a status-driven world where everyone uses “likes” similar to currency. How liked they are by those around them decides their class and social standing; this means every interaction provides you with a score or “like” amount.

As you can imagine, this world creates an obsession-like commitment to one’s self to gain popularity, and live the ideal life. Their social standing is also treated as the amount of life they have left, somewhat, as they feature their main character in a deep “nosedive” into her lowest of lows in the social class.

Of course, this is not the way the world currently operates – thankfully. But sometimes the fixation and dependency on social media may make it feel that way. Enough individuals may have experienced a situation where they sought out approval from another person or group. To an extent, it is human to seek acceptance. It only becomes unhealthy when it controls our own image of ourselves.

If we were to live in a world such as the one from the Black Mirror episode, it would require some technological advancements. It would also requires systemic change to get everyone on board this type of ranking system. We would have to shift the way we refer to class and wealth and make it more superficial than it already is in the real world now.

Again, the episode is a play on social media now, it is exaggerated. It does mimic the way our society can focus on likes and online acceptance a little too much. Even social media platforms make those things front and center for our audiences. Matter of fact, sites like Instagram include your photo, name, followed by your follower count. These are all ways they have already structured status into online identity. Facebook does the same and tells you immediately how many likes a page has gotten. These details do not change what information is being presented, who can access it, or whether it is true or not. They are modern day status symbols and our eyes will see them every time and act according, whether we want otherwise. We are conditioned and that is where civic imagination is necessary.

So no, Nosedive is not entirely reimagined reality. It is an embellished version of what parts of our current world have turned into since the start of social media. The last decade has changed society faster than those that came before it, which means we are still adapting. Civic imagination is a tool for how we can begin thinking of the best kind of world, one for everyone to live healthy and freely.

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