Charlie Brooker: ‘The more horrible an idea, the funnier I find it’

Blackest ever black: Bryce Dallas Howard in episode one, Nosedive.

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Few shows have wormed their way into the nation’s collective nightmares like Black Mirror, the new series of which premieres on Netflix from next Friday. Over two Channel 4 series and a feature-length Christmas special, Black Mirror has depicted unpleasant scenarios from the not-too distant future, in a way that has at times felt almost eerily prophetic.

…The new Netflix series duly opens with Nosedive, a “horrible comedy” set in a world where everyone is scored out of five. Like the best near-future satire, it resonates with our own present-day social media experience. So what can we learn from it and the rest of the series, in order to make sure Black Mirror doesn’t become a reality? We asked Charlie Brooker to stand in judgment on present-day tech issues: from hacking to Pokémon GO, and tell us where we need to watch our step…

The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb

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In psychology, the idea that everyone is like us is called the “false-consensus bias.” This bias often manifests itself when we see TV ratings (“Who the hell are all these people that watch NCIS?”) or in politics (“Everyone I know is for stricter gun control! Who are these backwards rubes that disagree?!”) or polls (“Who are these people voting for Ben Carson?”).


Online it means we can be blindsided by the opinions of our friends or, more broadly, America. Over time, this morphs into a subconscious belief that we and our friends are the sane ones and that there’s a crazy “Other Side” that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t “get it,” and is clearly not as intelligent as “us.” But this holier-than-thou social media behavior is counterproductive, it’s self-aggrandizement at the cost of actual nuanced discourse and if we want to consider online discourse productive, we need to move past this.


What is emerging is the worst kind of echo chamber, one where those inside are increasingly convinced that everyone shares their world view, that their ranks are growing when they aren’t. It’s like clockwork: an event happens and then your social media circle is shocked when a non-social media peer group public reacts to news in an unexpected way. They then mock the Other Side for being “out of touch” or “dumb.”

What happens instead of genuine intellectual curiosity is the sharing of Slate or Onion or Fox News or Red State links. Sites that exist almost solely to produce content to be shared so friends can pat each other on the back and mock the Other Side. Look at the Other Side! So dumb and unable to see this the way I do!

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

Now we’re all in danger of being caught up in the new culture wars, 24/7

Olympic gold medal winner Jessica Ennis-Hill suffered rape threats on Twitter after saying she wanted her name removed from one of Sheffield United’s stands if the club allowed convicted rapist Ched Evans to play for it again.

Olympic gold medal winner Jessica Ennis-Hill suffered rape threats on Twitter after saying she wanted her name removed from one of Sheffield United’s stands if the club allowed convicted rapist Ched Evans to play for it again. Photograph: Graham Hughes/Observer

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Everyone seems to have strong opinions about everything – and everywhere people want to take offence. One slip – or even a perfectly innocent remark – can mean public vilification

…Social scientists call this “context collapse” – the idea that everything we say on Facebook or Twitter is potentially addressed to everybody, ever. The fact that for the vast majority of the time, no one outside your mum and your friends will read it makes it all the more disorienting if your musings are wrenched out of their original context and held up for public discussion.

Your social networks discourage you from speaking out on politics

I'm not speaking

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The internet is supposed to be a bastion of self-expression, where you’re free to speak your mind knowing that someone, somewhere shares your feelings. However, Pew Research and Rutgers University have published a study showing that many social network users feel compelled to keep their mouths shut on sensitive topics.

Find Where to Eat in a New City by Trolling Foodies

Find Where to Eat in a New City by Trolling Foodies

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Chef and travel show host Anthony Bourdain says you should go online and troll the city’s foodies for information… “provoking nerd fury online”:

“Go to a number of foodie websites with discussion boards. Let’s say you’re going to Kuala Lumpur — just post on the Malaysia board that you recently returned and had the best rendang in the universe, and give the name of a place, and all these annoying foodies will bombard you with angry replies about how the place is bullshit, and give you a better place to go.”

You could ask for information nicely too or turn to apps like Eat Your World, but some people react more to trolling. Think about it: when a traveller says they had the best burger in your town somewhere and if you don’t agree with them, you’re probably more likely to respond than someone asking “Where should I eat?” The internet has no shortage of people armed with an opinion, especially if someone disagrees with them.