Black Mirror: Nosedive, Authenticity, and Lost Connections

I just finished watching Black Mirror’s episode called Nosedive, which is an interesting episode about the impact of continually rating people for every social interaction. It explores what happens when someone who was previously a very high rated person has a very bad day. It was, implied that it would happen throughout episode, that everyone was just a series of misfortunate events away from dropping from their current social hierarchy to a lower strata where they’d be unable to function in current society. Ratings indicate which jobs a person can have or not. Dropping too low indicates you’re not worthy of that job and in many cases, network effects and game theory type logic comes into play. Where you have to judge if a low ranking person or a person that’s currently out of favor would negatively impact your image.If that would drop you from a person of respect to a person of disrepute.

This episode made me uncomfortable to watch, because in a lot of ways it feels like it hits close to home as it deals with a major reason why I don’t like social media. I don’t like the constant need for validation through pictures, likes, and comments. I’ve tried to, in general avoid, Facebook lately, because it feels inauthentic, and creepy. Between Facebook, itself, tracking what you do online and partners with companies to track your shopping habits offline. Combing that with the desire to display the best of your life on platforms like Instagram, this can lead to depression.

In many articles it’s because of the fact that you’re comparing your messy every day life to what people are willing to post, which typically represents the best parts of their life. Their happy dogs, walking in a vineyard, going surfing, or some new thing that they bought. Even if you know that you are doing this, doesn’t really help. However, I think there’s a few reasons beyond that. For one, it forces you to live an inauthentic life, which is one of the major themes in the show Nosedive. The character knows she’s putting on a show and clearly has some serious anxiety around behaving that way. Her brother, who lives a more authentic life, doesn’t care as much about his social media score and directly asks for Lacie (the main character) to return to her authentic self (“remember when we had real conversations?”)

Being an inauthentic version of yourself is a type of acting as well pushing down the values you actually believe in. This is something referenced in Lost Connections as a root cause of depression. Where our intrinsic values do not align with society’s values and we must adopt society’s values over our own we become depressed. In the episode it Lacie only became aware that it was a possible to reject those norms when she was picked up by a trucker with a rate of 1.4/5. This woman allowed her to reflect on her experience as her rating declined and bottomed out.

However, it wasn’t until she’d been rejected by the society and put into a prison of sorts that she was able to find a truly authentic interaction. It was rage filled, but eventually became filled with joy as the two people in prison were able to be an authentic version of themselves.

In our society, while we don’t have the intensity portrayed in the episode with social media, it is possible we could move into that direction over time. For us to really have authentic interactions, we need to find people that support us being our authentic selves even when there are people in our lives that might not fully support our decisions. Or people in our lives that make it more difficult to be authentic.

A Competition of Values

I’ve written about values in the past and it was something that I’ve felt was really important to me. However, it wasn’t until I had read Lost Connections (see my review here) that my values, education as a Lean practitioner, and my work environment was a major source of my depression. I think at some level I knew this, because I would get frustrated often and talk about it with the one or two people that really understood it. When I read two sections of Lost Connections, I put a couple pieces together.

In one section, Hari talks about how being unable to control things in your job, regardless of the type of work, completely destroys someone’s sense of worth and drives you into a state of hopelessness and depression. This can lead to anxiety and the inability to plan, because the depression and anxiety shrink your time horizon down to the immediacy of dealing with the person in control of your work life. This is something that his abhorrent to Lean, Agile, and Six Sigma methodologies. Where the goal is to push down decision making to the person closest to the actual work. In companies that really focus on driving down cost or having the single point of decision making, this can be anathema to the company culture.

The second section that hit home was the portion about our culture being at odds with our intrinsic values. Considering that I’ve been immersed so deeply with Lean, I have a strong sense of what i believe is fair for technology and social policies, it’s unsurprising that the current political environment was contributing to my depression. I had tried to fight this by writing, but I had just felt beaten down. I didn’t feel like I had anyone around me to talk with to support my values, this plunged me into farther depression.

This is where you need to find like people around you and I completely failed in that. I needed support for my values to be able to compete with the unhealthy cultural values i was thrown into at work. While I threw myself into an unhealthy amount of news and media about current politics. These two together over a series of months and years really started to take a toll on me. I suspect that I’m not alone in this. No matter what your principles are, you need to have a strong support network to keep those values healthy. You also have to be aware that your values are under attack by a society that values things very differently than you do. By a society that’s trying to exploit your anxiety to take your money to make you feel better. Because that item is the only thing that will make you feel better.

I had thought I was immune to that because I read a lot. I wasn’t out on Facebook or any places like that really trying to keep up with the Joneses. But I believe that I just dealt with that issue in other ways, including eating more than I should when I’m depressed, having a couple more drinks that I needed, or by shutting myself away from friends and family through gaming or reading or staring off into nothingness.

However, I now know that this is a thing that has happened to me and I can stop and listen to what I’m feeling. I’m going to with help of my friends locally and online to discuss my values and how I’m feeling about things. I’m going to sit with these feelings to understand them and figure out what it is that is in conflict causing me to feel this way and then make a plan to address it. As it is, i’m going to be working with my wife to figure how to get more connected with nature and how to get connected with more people in the area. As a way to get connected and be healthier.

I’m really glad I found this book, because it’s helped me feel a lot lighter about things. It’s helped me understand that I’m not broken, I have problems that cause depression, but they are solvable and I just need to ask for help and figure out to fix them with my partner.

How you feel at work

We know that work sucks most of the time. The question is why? My wife and I have been pondering this question quite a bit lately because of her high levels of stress. She’s basically working all the time and has little expectation of being rewarded beyond a raise and the yearly bonus everyone gets based on the performance of her company. Being on call 24/7 with tools that consistently go down as a new employee immediately creates problems. No matter what you do you feel like you’re a failure. This is where the quality of your manager can really step in to make you feel better about the job you’ve been doing. According to a Danish study this is what causes work driven depression, not the amount of work you’ve left to do. I completely agree with this. I know that I’ve gotten depressed when I’ve had minimal work to do and had been successful with my work because I had a bad manager (he was giving raises to the women in the group he obviously had a crush on). When your managers have poker faces and basically treat you the way they expect to be treated, no awards, recognition, and more work with less time for a job well done are causes of serious workplace depression.

The article doesn’t really provide many ways to address these problems. However, from my experience I know that there are some definite ways to address this type of depression. First, look for co-workers that inspire you and can motivate you. Get peer recognition and make sure you recognize your peers that you feel are doing exemplary work. In many cases companies have spot awards – use them regardless if there’s money associated or not. The recognition really makes people feel good. Furthermore, as more of your peers begin to show recognition it will actually put pressure UP to your manager to do the same. The manager will be the aberration of the group and will likely want to conform, especially if manager sees improvement in the organization.

Work with cross-functional teams. You are more likely to get rewarded when you work on projects with larger scopes. This provides several benefits for you, first you learn more about the organization than just your silo. Second, you are able to see how other leaders treat their people and if you like how a leader in a different group treats their people, you should consider moving in that direction. This will enable you to develop new skills and potentially learn the skills you need to get into a job you find more interesting and full filling.

Finally, if you don’t find something that makes you happy at the company you’re with leave. Not without another job lined up, but start looking for the types of jobs that you want and try to find out what type of manager you’d rather work for. In many jobs you can move around enough to learn what you like and what you don’t like. I suggest moving around within a company, then looking elsewhere. Develop the skills you can while you’re at your current job and try to find something you’re excited about.

Many of the people I’m connected with on social media, such as the KBMOD crew have been able to do this, but not all of them have been able to. I hope they’re able to do this soon, I know that my wife will be doing the same over the next few months. Work takes up too much of your life for it to suck that badly. Move on, if you had a failing review a company would do the same with you, why shouldn’t you do the same if you’re company’s failing you?