December's post for Advertising Week
Over the last couple of days I’ve been watching Charlie Brooker’s latest series, Black Mirror, a series of Twilight Zone (not Twilight series)-inspired, darkly comic dramas about how technology is affecting our modern life. I’m sure the irony would not be lost on Brooker that as I’m in New Zealand, I was having to watch them on YouTube; Channel 4’s On Demand service 4OD, is “not available in my area”, no matter how much I demand.*
Anyway, gripes about On Demand television aside, for those of you not familiar with Brooker’s cutting sense of humour and cynicism, and indeed disdain for…well, almost everything, there are a million clips available on YouTube (as is Black Mirror).
He’s essentially like some sort of British anti-Santa.
Do not expect Christmas cheer.
The first episode of Black Mirror involves somebody kidnapping a princess and demanding that the Prime Minister does something very un-ministerial with a pig on live television.
The second episode takes place in a sort of Orwellian TV nightmare, where almost every surface is a mind-numbing visual stimulus, and the only way out is basically through achieving fame courtesy of an X Factor-esque game show.
There’s one more to come in the series, but until it’s broadcast and someone pirates it and puts it on YouTube, I can only sit around Tweeting about it.
Brooker’s blows are hardly subtle jabs, but they are poignant.
We’re obsessed with technology. Obsessed with it. And reality TV. And social media.
I’m just as addicted to Facebook as the next person. And no matter how you try and justify it – I’m only on Twitter for work – we are all constantly checking and rechecking these streams of information like junkies scratching at their arms. And we all – and I mean that in a “we are the 99%” sense – take some pleasure in watching people who are terrible at doing something embarrass themselves.
It’s a mind-numbing, panic-inducing amount of information that we’re bombarded with. And that’s before we even turn on the news. There’s so much clutter these days that it really does make it difficult to filter the good information from the bad. And, like a sheep being herded by the Border Collie of technology, I fall into the same traps as anyone else.
I’ve started sharing pictures of animals at work.
I resisted and resisted. Then caved. And now no matter how much I shower, the water doesn’t ever get hot enough to wash away the shame.
OK I’m overreacting. That definitely sounded melodramatic. And it really was a funny picture of an owl. But the point is that we have all this power and information at our fingertips, and Justin Bieber is the most watched video ever, and I check to see if anyone has “Liked” anything I’ve said every 30 minutes.
Black Mirror is a cynical, sarcastic look at what we spend our time bombarding ourselves with.
As a species, we don’t have a track record of using things responsibly.
But maybe over Christmas, it might be time to take a wee break. Just from the cat pictures and The X Factor. If you want to start a revolution, that’s OK – just trend it under #xmasrevolution.
That way I can follow it from my sofa.
*On a side note, the idents for 4OD gleefully – and slightly sexually, if I’m not reading too much into that voiceover – tell me that “4 on demand lets you watch channel 4, whenever you want”. Yes I know. That’s what “On Demand” means. It’s not “maybe if you buy me dinner and make the bed”. There’s no foreplay.