‘The Circle’ serves as surprisingly thought-provoking look at social media

Photo courtesy of IMDb

By Bridget Sjoberg | Editor-in-Chief

The concept sounds absolutely ridiculous at first—eight people live in the same building but different condos, and can only communicate with each other via a social messaging app. If that’s not the most 2020 concept you’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.

I’d heard of the Netflix series “The Circle” before, but it initially sounded like a bad episode of “Black Mirror.” After giving it a chance, however, I was amazed that “The Circle” — despite its questionable premise — was actually quite thought-provoking.

The show is also interesting in the sense that the contestants generally never communicate with each other face to face. Each contestant, when they enter the show, chooses a photo as their profile picture and writes a brief description about themselves. The only way they can communicate with one another is through a messaging app, either in an all-inclusive message or in a private or group message with various players.

At various intervals in the show, the contestants rank one another from favorite to least favorite, and the top two rated players become “influencers,” and decide together via message who to “block” or remove from the show.

However, two twists make the show increasingly interesting. First, since the players don’t communicate in person, some of them decide to catfish. Second, after a player gets blocked from the show, they have the chance to meet one remaining player face-to-face before they go.

Since the players don’t communicate in person, I was pleasantly surprised at the genuine connections formed on the show. Even people that chose to catfish with the images they shared generally acted as themselves and bonded with the other players.

On the second to last episode, the top five contestants meet in person and share a surprisingly strong bond with one another. Part of it revolves around the shared experience they have in common, but some of the friendships seem genuine and like they will continue on even after the show.

However, an important point is raised in the finale episode. At the end of the day, some of the players question whether they would have been friends if they had met in person or in a normal circumstance. This is an interesting question, and is ultimately the crux of the show.

Some contestants choose to act as themselves when messaging, but those who chose to catfish commonly had a reason for doing it. One woman catfishes out of fear that she would be judged for her weight, another contestant catfishes as his girlfriend since he believes females come across as more likable, and another woman even catfishes since she assumes her more masculine appearance would come off the wrong way.

Ultimately, despite the connections formed via messaging, each contestant was forced to rate people that they didn’t actually know. Whether it be through the images they selected or the tone they used when messaging, each contestant was in a way only part of or a persona of who they really are, and had to be judged off of a brief profile. And that’s what social media is — platforms where others make judgements and assumptions from limited information that doesn’t fully reflect a person’s life.

Although “The Circle” made some interesting points like this, the show is also hilarious and overall has a lighthearted energy to it. It’s also incredibly addicting — the show doesn’t follow a format where one person is eliminated at the end of each episode but instead always ends in a cliffhanger.

Although the series’ premise is a bit ridiculous, it provides necessary commentary on social media’s role in our culture. Just make sure to watch past the first episode, and you’ll learn to love “The Circle” in all its 2020-ness.