How will technology shape relationships?
I was watching Black Mirror recently (huge fan!) and some of the concepts were based around relationships and dating. The fourth season is a mind-blowing creation that focuses on the modern age of technology. Black Mirror got me thinking about how the world of technology will shape our future relationships and the way we meet people, date, communicate, and who we end up with.
I am a huge fan of technology, and I am fully immersed in the ecosystem of it, but when it comes to love, I am a little more old-school, and I often find myself wondering if the old-school ways were the best. In the early days of relationship-building, people went out and met face to face. They were often introduced or set up on dates. Things felt a little more tangible and humane.
Now, it's all very digital and feels a little superficial. People are now meeting online, through apps, and other avenues, such as Instagram. We are judging people based on what we see on a digital profile, and there are too many options out there, since so many more people are digitally accessible to us, so we are now having what feels like less meaningful encounters.
SPOILER ALERT FOR BLACK MIRROR - DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN UP TO SEASON 4 YET!
Black Mirror’s fourth episode of the fourth season, ''Hang the DJ'', completely blew my mind! I mean, wow! How do they think of these storylines, and how scary is it that this might just be the future we will live in?
–“Hang the DJ” is based around a digital concept where couples are matched through a rather controlling, but intelligent, computerised system (a small, handheld device referred to as ''the system''), which creates matches and claims to be 99.8 percent accurate.
So, how does it work?
Prior to their date, the characters are not sent much information on the person they have been matched with, other than where they will meet, so they must trust the system completely. Once they are seated, “the system” even pre-establishes the menu choice and decides which meal both parties will eat that night. During the date, they are allowed to check how long the system has decided they will spend together as a couple (this is referred to as an expiry date). The expiry date can be anything from an hour to a whole year! Yes, you read that right – a whole year! This part really got me. Imagine a terrible date that lasts a whole year!
After the meal is over, the couple are then taken to an apartment, where they can bond as a couple however, they wish (if you know what I mean). Once the date expires, the couple then part ways and are sent onto the next date shortly after. This continues, match after match after match (all with varying expiry dates, using the same format), until the system matches them with “the one”: their final match, the person they are expected to spend the rest of their life with (referred to as “the ultimate match”). They must then accept the ultimate match that the system has paired them with. It’s like a sick, digitally-arranged marriage.
In “Hang the DJ”, one of the main characters meets the woman of his dreams, but the system decides that she wasn't “the one”, so he ends up with another match; a woman he cannot stand (nor can she stand him). Upon checking his expiry time with the new women, they learn that they have to spend a whole year together, which neither is pleased about, but they think that the system must have matched them for a reason. It was a painful and depressing scenario to watch. The pairing lacked emotion and any form of compatibility.
On the other side, the women of his dreams is living out her own storyline. She is initially matched with another man whom she isn’t compatible with but has to stay with for nine months. Onve the nine months expires, she is then passed around from man to man for several months, all with short expiry dates, such as 36 hours. This turns from anything meaningful to small, meaningless flings. As time goes on, she becomes more and more detached from each match. This was also very painful to watch, as the character is clearly looking for something more long-term and substantial.
“Hang the DJ” really got me thinking about how close to this concept we actually may be; how online sites and apps claiming to be intelligent are pretty much telling us who our potentials are, based on a small search criterion, and then we decide if it’s a match or not. At the moment, we have control over whether or not we meet the person, but if you think about it, the system is the one who actually suggests the matches to us in the first place. So, in future, the next step would be for the system would be to also decide whether we meet the match or not, like in black mirror.
Currently when we ''match" using online tools and apps we trust the tool and are showing an interest in nothing but digital profiles lurking in the system! Although I wasn't a fan of the particularly badly organised speed dating event, it got me thinking about how at least it’s a little more face-to-face.
I won't forget a line the main character says in Black mirrors - “Hang the DJ” when they are talking about what things must have been like before ''the system''. He says, ''There are so many options, you don't know which one you want.'' And they both agree its better the choice is made for them. This made me think about why the system was created - to decide for you. This really scared me, as we are in the digital age of too many options already and are getting lazier.
There were also other interesting concepts regarding relationships in this series, such as in the fourth episode of season two, “White Christmas”, where people were able to block a partner to the point that they could not physically see each other. It went as far as blocking partents from physically being able to see their own children (using an approved court order). The person completely disappears into a blur.
I am completely mind-blown by Black Mirror, and I would really recommend that you watch it, as it hits so close to home in many ways, even though it’s all very futuristic. Some of the concepts are even already around us and may just be waiting to be developed into something bigger… and slightly twisted.