Fifteen Million Merits: An overview

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Black Mirror – Fifteen Million Merits (Flickr) by Saulo Cruz CC BY-NC-SA

I recently watched an episode of Black Mirror titled Fifteen Million Merits and I have to say, it was somewhat confronting. I think for the most part, the elements that seemed most confrontational were only so because the themes and messages conveyed in the episode are easily transferable to real life.

I started a thread about this particular episode on Reddit to gauge other people’s reactions and thoughts and briefly outlined my own. A link to the thread can be found here – Black Mirror: Fifteen Million Merits 

I’ve decided, however, to explore my thoughts about Fifteen Million Merits in a little more depth, which precisely is what you’ll find below. I’ve drawn on the original points I made in the Reddit thread and expanded on them.

The way we present ourselves using technology and the identity we create

This episode of Black Mirror got me thinking about the way we communicate with each other and the role that technology plays in our lives. Technology has changed rapidly over the years and with is has become integrated in our everyday lives. Along with this rapid evolution came the birth of digital media and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – just to name a few. The thing that often makes me think is the way that we portray a certain image of ourselves to present to other people on these social media platforms.

There is often the discussion that those smiling, happy faces you see on your Facebook or Instagram feeds are not always a true representation of the people who are posting. There is a certain selectivity that enables social media users to pick and choose the content they wish to share with their online friends, thus creating the appearance of an apparently cheerful and carefree life. People are not likely to share with everyone if they have crippling anxiety or severe self-esteem issues (of course some people do, but it’s not necessarily very common). It’s a lot easier for people to slap on a smile and their best outfit and upload some candid shots from a girls’ night out than comfortably admit their insecurities or struggles.

Because of this ability to share selected content in whichever way we choose, we are actively creating an identity we want to share with people that masks the less-than-appealing details that might affect that happy image we want people to see.

The ability to use technology to only present a certain perspective or to manipulate information and the way it is presented

The talent show aspect of Fifteen Million Merits seemed like nothing but a warped, delusional outlet to harvest innocent, young dreamers who are willing to do anything to make a name for themselves, and manipulate them for entertainment. The ‘Hot Shot’ talent show was never about people’s hopes or dreams nor were their best interests ever considered, although the people involved in the show tried to make it appear that way.

Much of the ‘reality’ television our channels are bombarded with is all based on the selection and editing of information. No one’s going to watch hours and hours of straight, uncut footage in the hopes that something interesting might happen. There are teams of editors and producers that manipulate the situations they are filming, and then take it back to the editing room to pick and choose the parts that are going to get the most views.

Even beyond the aspect of reality television, the use of technology enables people to present only a certain perspective of things and manipulate information and the way it is presented.

A comment on people’s obsession with materialism and the value they place on material objects. Are they really that important?

Bing’s speech in Fifteen Million Merits brings to light the arbitrary nature of their doppels and the pointlessness of using merits to buy them ‘things’ (if you’ve not yet seen Bing’s speech or need a refresher, I encourage you to find the episode on Netflix, it’s a ripper). There’s also a lot more other content to his speech but I’m mentioning this particular part to draw on a parallel to our own lives and our apparent need to work towards buying ‘things’ and objects in order to feel like we are successful. People often measure the success of another based on the things that they own, when this is not necessarily true. What does it all mean anyway? Why is that a measure of success? In the end, people are going to remember you more for what you did and how you acted, than the possessions that you own.

There is certainly more I could delve into if I had the time, but it’s definitely an interesting and thought-provoking episode  about a number of relevant issues in the real world today involving technology and information. If you’ve not seen Fifteen Million Merits, it’s definitely worth checking out on Netflx.

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