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by Ian Moyse | @IMoyse | LinkedIn

Anyone watch the recent ‘The Circle’Reality TV show?  Don’t blame you if you didn’t with so much reality program fodder out there. However, this one for me was of interest as it was focused totally on the Social Media world and posed an interesting social experiment.

The premise was simple, setup a bunch of varying characters in an isolated environment, ala Big Brother, BUT do not allow them to meet at any time! Instead isolate them each in their own flat in an apartment building for 3 weeks and put them in contact with each other using only Social Media – a purpose-built version called the Circle!

The experiment, perhaps unintentionally, exposed the harsh realities of the online world. 8 initial contestants moved into their temporary living apartments and created new online profiles on the Circle Social Media Platform, a sort of a cut down of the real world with a short profile message headline, profile picture and connected friends with a Direct Messaging (DM) tool.

And this is where the fun started and the realities of social were immediately shown. Several of the initial and subsequent participants decided to present different realities of who they were to the others in the Circle.

This ranged from Freddie, who as a gay wanted to avoid being judged on his sexuality and becoming the Gay Friend and presented himself as a woman chasing guy, Jennifer who as a 40 old Advertising executive pretended to be a 34 year old oncologist using a young pretty girls pictures, Sinead, using her Grandfathers pictures under the moniker of Christopher and finally the Piece de resistance, Alex who presented himself as Kate, using his real life Girlfriends photos.

The program introduced the idea of influencers, those that the others periodically group rated (liked) as highest would then get to choose who got blocked (for this read Big Brother’s evicted term) before introducing another contestant to replace them in the Circle.

Showing the true colours of social we had fake profiles, Catfishing (based on the Film and MTV series Catfish, taken from the real world Catfish name who pretends to be something it isn’t)  where one of the male contestants sort of fell a little for Kate (not knowing it was really male Alex), lies told to manipulate the outcomes/likes received and side-line 1-1 conversations between contestants about others in the circle.

 

One of the contestants Dan even took his pet Turtle Fiji in whom from being featured attained a Social following of 10k on twitter – check the profile at https://twitter.com/FijiTurtle.

The key example for me was that Alex,who from the start used a fake persona and profile pictures won the series and gained the £50k prize and then was also awarded the audience favourites vote of £25k, thus demonstrating that someone faking on social can pull it off and be believed to their benefit. Additionally that the public endorsed the behaviour further as their favourite character was an interesting dichotomy, being rewarded for lying and being fake on others!

I doubt of any of those supporting Alex would be people who had been duped or catfished in real life and Dan, who on the program had been duped by Alex /Kate is reported as ‘feeling humiliated after forming a friendship with Kate to later find out it was a man called Alex.’

Interestingly Alex was the contestant with Social Media experienced having been an early content producer for UNILAD before launching his own comedy and memes profile on Social with 400k+ fans. So is this proof that on social those with the skills and fakery can and will win through and will this send a message that this is acceptable behaviour?

It also demonstrated how easy it is to get emotional highs and lows on likes and comments from people you do not know, don’t know if are real and whether you would like or care about their opinions in the real world. Yet on social words from a stranger, possibly fake, had people angry, emotive and barring on hatred to another. We also watched as suspicions were raised as to the ‘realness’ of another, particular as Dan voiced questioning the legitimacy of Kate, to then convince himself his doubts were not real.

Finally, we watched as the contestants met in real life and found people were not as they expected, were different people, by age, sex of sexual orientation and had to come to terms with how this made them feel  In the real world these same exploits and outcomes can have far more devastating emotional tolls as we often hear reported in the press.

The Circle was an intriguing insight in a small non-consequential way into the real world of social and the challenges it poses for our society today and tomorrow.

Feeds from the show can be found at https://twitter.com/C4TheCircle

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