I have to admit, I didn’t know social media reality shows were a thing. I absolutely had no idea Netflix’s “The Circle” even existed. The whole concept of it is mind-blowing, and I was extremely skeptical of how it would all play out.
But my skepticism has been amended. A game show that heavily relies on the motive of interacting through a social media application is unique and definitely fits with an increasingly online world.
Like in its previous seasons, contestants are isolated within their own apartments, and their only way to communicate with each other is via “The Circle,” a system that allows them to text and play games with fellow contestants. The catch is, everyone can identify as either themselves or a fake person, created specifically to trick others. The objective, like that of social media itself, is to find a way to win the favor of the most people and become the top influencer. If one fails, they are blocked from “The Circle,” and their dreams of being the top influencer (and winning the $100,000 prize) are crushed.
As the show goes on, you (like the contestants themselves) learn to adore or dislike the strangers onscreen, and this is what makes the show work. It’s not the game itself that keeps the show entertaining, but the contestants that make it worth the while. Even though they’re not all together in one room, you still get the shady drama that most reality television viewers crave.
Unlike many other reality TV shows, the age range of the contestants is not specific to one generation. From young and sassy 20-year-old Daniel to the southern belle, 52-year-old Michelle, this show proves just how much social media has impacted the world of communication and overall presentation.
It speaks volumes about the way we as a society perceive others. Social media has literally changed the way we interact so much that it is almost detrimental to our interpersonal relationships. The idea that you can take one look at someone’s picture or profile and automatically assume one’s personality and lifestyle without truly getting to know that person does more harm than good. It completely obliterates the process of direct communication.
Social media has made us accustomed to either accepting the way people portray themselves or placing doubt on complete strangers because “they don’t look the type.” One of the contestants, Kai, didn’t believe that fellow contestant Ava was who she said she was because her profile seemed too perfect — though they’ve never had a single interaction with each other. But because Ava has her occupation as a singer/songwriter and has a very model-esque selfie set as her profile picture, Kai believed her to be a catfish.
This show puts emphasis on how society is often too judgmental to people we know nothing about and illustrates how the concept of first impressions has changed significantly. No longer are our first impressions based on the way you shake one’s hand, eye contact or body language. It’s been replaced by our assumptions of each other through an app that doesn’t really say much at all due to its visual nature.
Yet, the show positively examines how social media connects people. Matthew, a gay man, came into the game posing as his lesbian best friend Ashley. Sophia, a lesbian, entered the game as a new contestant in the third episode but posed as her straight older sister Isabella. In a private chat together, they bonded over sexuality and acceptance. In a sense, Matthew was speaking as himself behind the mask of Ashley and likewise for Sophia. These two people, who have no idea of knowing who the other was, bonded over shared interests. Their friendship showcases the beautiful side of social media.
Behind its flashy reality show exterior, “The Circle” reminds viewers no one is truly living the lives that they portray on social media. Social media is a façade in almost every way possible. We shouldn’t allow it to change the way we see one another, even though there is the possibility that the person behind the profile picture could be a fake.
The bottom line is that first impressions through direct communication are still important to our everyday lives, and “The Circle” proves to us that our reliance on social media isn’t just affecting the way we communicate. It’s changed how we see one another.