It’s a new year, it’s a new day and there’s a new season of Black Mirror available on Netflix.
If you haven’t heard about it yet, Black Mirror is a British anthology series that centers on technology and human nature. It’s also a term for when a TV or phone screen goes dark and the user can see their reflection.
To me, the two make perfect sense. The show is about the dark side of technology. The technology itself isn’t dark, rather how humans use it can turn a once positive innovation into a dark nightmare for some.
The show is not for the light of heart, and there are serious repercussions for the characters who choose to partake in the technology.
At this point, you are probably wondering what this has to do with marketing or PR. The answer: everything.
We live in a digital world with new technology and ways of communicating are always changing, and they’re sometimes not used for the better.
Here are some lessons from the first three seasons of Black Mirror (spoilers ahead):
1. Sometimes the past needs to stay in the past.
In the third episode of season one, “The Entire History of You,” everyone has access to a memory implant that records everything a user sees and hears and can be played back any time. But as the characters learn, sometimes bringing up the past isn’t what it seems.
For marketers, this rings true. Sometimes, it is best to leave things where they are, the past. There is no need to bring up a tweet from years ago when branding, messaging or leadership has changed, especially if there is a sordid past. If fans bring up the past, the best way to deal with it is to address it, and look towards the future.
2. Social media doesn’t replace face-to-face communication.
In the season three episode “Nosedive,” social media is everything. You are ranked and liked by your social media presence. If it sounds a little like the book The Circle by Dave Eggers, it’s because it is. There is a similarity in the utopian societies where people are judged by social media rather than their actual person. Sounds like a future we might be headed towards.
As marketers, we should be weary of social media. While it’s a great tool, it is not a substitute for meeting someone in person for coffee to really get to know them. Social media posts, emails and text messages for that matter, can be misunderstood or taken wrong because someone read them in a tone different than the one it was written in. If you are having a misunderstanding with a client, never forget the importance of just picking up the phone or meeting for lunch.
3. Social media has real-life implications.
Imagine death by hashtag. That’s right, an episode of Black Mirror goes there. In, “Hated in the Nation” people are targeted by the hashtag #Deathto. Usually the person the hashtag targets did something to warrant some kind of punishment such as pretending to urinate on a war memorial or insulting a fan. The justification is forcing people to come out from behind a message board or the anonymity of a username and face a punishment that, let’s be honest, they definitely don’t deserve (death for insulting a fan? Really?). But this is very prevalent today in real-life with serious implications.
When I talk about the real-life implications, they can be bleak, just like in the episode. Yes, people have even died over social media. Cyber-bullying is very real and very serious and is one of the darkest results of social media. As marketers, we need to be aware of the implications of words and what they can do to people. We can address serious topics, make sarcastic and witty comments and not cross the line into cyber-bullying.
Now that I have made everyone sufficiently depressed I can wrap up this blog post. I am in no way saying that technology is bad, because it’s not. It’s actually great. The tools and information available to us that weren’t in the past are a blessing. But, we should never forget that there is a dark side we should all be aware of and hopefully, we can create a better future than the ones in Black Mirror.