“Fake it til you make it” was one of the many mantras of personal development and motivation in the 1980s.
It was probably one of the most enduring pieces of poor life advice.
“Nosedive,” an episode from the surrealist Netflix series Black Mirror, pushes “faking it” to the limit. Whereas in our reality, economic credit makes the world turn, in the world of “Nosedive,” social media ratings are like currency, popular influencers are like the 1%, and reputation management consultants are like credit repair specialists.
One character grimaces while composing the perfect photo of her coffee. It tastes terrible, but her photo caption will never say that. “No one is this happy,” another character warns her.
And she brushes him off because she’s more committed to playing the idealization game than to sharing her actual life, opinions, or perspectives with others.
If the consequences of inauthenticity were as direct and vivid in real life as they are in this episode, fewer people would build their lives around it. But there are some rewards for editing out fragments of a whole life thanks to social media and last century’s innovations in public relations.
Whoever shapes their public face first and best seems to win. However, audiences and consumers alike are easily aroused to suspicion: if there’s any gap between the presented and the actual, we’ll eventually find it and crack it open.
It’s one of the ironies of the open internet that the more we’re trained to share about ourselves, the less we believe of each other. As we learn to apply hermeneutics of suspicion not just to ideologies but to other people and their intentions on- and offline, there’s not much room left for trust.