In 2004, a Harvard student named Mark founded a social media platform called Facebook. What followed is a widely known path towards world domination. Social media became a huge part of our lives. That big a part that it is at the verge of taking over our lives completely. In fact, a social media rating system has become reality in China. Is it plausible that how high we rank on social media will have an impact on what we can and cannot do? Let’s find out!
For the fans of Black Mirror, this sounds pretty familiar. In the first episode of the third season called ‘Nosedive’, the protagonist Lacie lives in a world where people can instantly ‘rate’ anyone they run into. This rating then decides who you can hang out with, which privileges you have and, in general, who successful you can be in life. Lacie is capable of anything to get to the right rating to attend the wedding of an old friend. In the end this becomes her downfall, rating wise. But she learned a lesson for life. (I don’t want to spoil too much, watch the episode and you will know what I’m talking about.)
Imagine standing in line at the airport: ‘above 3,5 out of 5 left, under 3,5 right and those below 2 cannot even get on the plane. Or having different prices while shopping online based on your social media rating. Or even in a more important part of our lives: who gets a new heart or liver first depends on your ‘rating’.
State of social media
Fortunately, social media does not have this power (yet), but the presence of social media is increasing every day. An overview of the insane stats of social media like Facebook, Twitter and others:
- Facebook has 1 billion daily active users, 500,000 people sign up to Facebook every day
- 20% of the internet population has an Instagram account
- 4,2 billion likes are given on Instagram every day
- 500 million tweets are sent every day
- 470 million people have a LinkedIn account
It is pretty clear that Facebook and all its companies are the epicentre of what’s happening online. They allow us to do stuff we couldn’t even imagine years ago. Social media allows us to get in touch with anyone, wherever they may be in the world, it made it possible to access an insane amount of information with a click on the button. Social media also gave us an insight into the lives of our heroes, thought leaders and people we otherwise would never get in touch with. Most importantly it allows everyone to start a platform to share, write and/or film their own stories and thoughts.
One invention that has taken this to the next level is the Chinese app WeChat. It is a Swiss army knife app that has the features of Facebook, Instagram, Tinder or Uber all in one place. It even allows you to pay someone or to quickly make appointment at the hospital.
Long story, short: the internet and its social media platforms have democratised sharing and consuming information. Looking at what these platforms has done with our lives, you would think a social media rating system is a paradox.
So far, for the awesomeness of social media…
The other side of the coin
Democracy often has a downside. Social media has made it easy to grant people access into our lives. Every website we visit, there is a stream of people posting pictures, (live) video of what they are doing. Unconsciously, we create a ranking of those people we follow in our head. “She’s better looking than her”, “he has an awesome life, why don’t I have a life like that”. A study found out that 1 out of 3 people felt worse after checking their Facebook timeline. The two most important reasons of the dissatisfaction was comparing yourself socially with friends or having a ‘lack of attention’, from having less likes or comments than your friends have. A social media rating no longer sounds like a paradox, it is what our lives are built around. It just doesn’t have an outspoken impact on our lives (yet).
With this huge impact of social media on our lives, the numbers about social media addiction are pretty scary. On average we have around 7 communication apps on our phone (how many do you have?), on which we spend at least two hours a day. That accounts for 28% of the time we spend online. These are numbers that can be true for around 2 billion people on this globe. With the idea of introducing a basic income and a reduction the weekly hours we’ll work because of automation. A world that is a perfect foundation for a social media rating system is being created faster than you think.
A tipping point in the making
With more than 1 in 4 people in this world on social media, which use these apps at least once a month, companies like Facebook and LinkedIn have an insane power over our lives. They have the platforms that gives us our first impressions of people: future colleagues, mother, father, sister and sons-in-law or people you discuss stuff with in the comments of a Facebook post. And also give us a possibility to change this impression people have of us. We can be whoever we want on the internet, anonymously or not, without any form of accountability. The twitter ‘egg’ trolls for example, are a pain in the ass for Twitter but at the same time show how easy it is to spread your opinion anonymously around the web without any real consequences.
The real impact of social media
In other news, a Facebook post or an Instagram photo can cost you your job. According to CareerBuilder, 18% of employers said that they fired people because of something they posted on social media, 28% of these employers have fired people in the past because of non-work-related activity on the web.
Also, a photo or video on social media, can change your life forever. Your yearbook photo or accidental photo can turn into a meme that is spread all around the internet. You are an internet phenomenon almost overnight.
But the worst off line impact of social media that has surfaced, is cyber bullying. 43% of student in America have said to have been a victim of cyber bullying, to outline the seriousness of these statistics, a study has shown that victimisation online has a pertinent link with suicide.
These examples show that our online actions already have an off line impact. Some bigger than others, but both ‘worlds’ are no longer separated from each other.
If you call it a social media rating system or not, it doesn’t matter. The impact of social media has been proven. With a possibility to scale towards worldwide proportions. The only difference between reality and a Black Mirror episode is that it hasn’t been recognised yet. Either we don’t want to, or it has become such a common thing that we already agreed to the impact of this gigantic platform. So if it is a common thing, is it plausible that companies as Facebook or Google will introduce the clear impact of our social media presence on our daily lives? And is this supposed to be a bad thing?
Imagine that: A social media rating system that runs the world
With the Black Mirror episode in mind, what would a world with a social media rating system look like?
One app to rule them all
A phone with countless apps you barely use is something we won’t see in the future. The WeChat model is what the future phone will look like. Otherwise the rating won’t has the impact it hoped for. The check-out or sign-up procedure would have an extra step: the rating confirmation step, this will decide what you pay, or if you even have access at all.
The world won’t know what ‘honesty’ is about
A fake laugh is the new laugh, people will give their real opinion about you behind their phone screens. What is posted on social media is no longer trustworthy, it is all in order to score the highest rating. Business that sell fake stories or other moments that will increase your popularity will pop up all around the world.
A ‘zero rating’ forever is the new death penalty
Being sentenced to death would no longer be the worse that can happen to you. Committing a serious crime would put you all the way down the ladder, forever. You can’t climb up anymore. Whatever you do. The ‘0’ will be on your phone’s screen forever.
A viral post will change your life, for real
Getting all the likes, views, comments, your rating will skyrocket almost overnight and the doors to a better life will open for you. Going viral will be the ‘American Dream’ of the future. Click baiting will be the common thing on the internet.
You won’t be anonymous, as off & online are one big merged world
You’ll instantly know who is serving your coffee, fixing your car (probably a robot) or taking care of your kids. Every face will have a name. This will result in a better justice system that will hold anyone accountable for their actions. Our lives will be more calculated, no more abrupt changes. Who knows what those will do to your rating?
Is this the world we would like to live in? It depends. If it is implemented the right way it can result in a more just world where the accountability for your deeds is not forgotten easily. It will hurt people in places where they will feel it the hardest. But on the other side, the foundations that are being made for a world like this don’t look promising. Continuing on this road, our social media rating will depend on a fake exhibition of our lives. A central monitoring agency is necessary to decide if a rating is a true depiction of someone. But who will run this agency, to whom do we want to give such an amount of power?
Maybe AI is a solution but human interferences will still be necessary. And what will the consequences be of a world like this? People won’t talk about how they really feel and as seen in the Black Mirror, psychologist will transform into social media consultants.
Spend your time wisely, especially on the web. Use the time to create a better version of yourself, and not to try to show yourself in a better way than you actually are. Authenticity needs to prevail, only then a social media rating system would be a great thing that will improve our world.
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