I watched ”Nerve” last Friday at the cinema, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the film, a brief overview:
”Nerve” refers to a game in the film, it is based on a social media concept. The game offers service users the option to become watchers or players. Watchers follow their favourite players, and become part of an underground community. Players must complete dares generated by watchers, every dare will win you money – but if you bail out at any point you lose all the money you have previously earned. Each dare becomes increasingly dangerous, and the protagonist whom becomes a player after she is mocked by her friends for never taking risks; becomes alarmingly immersed in the game. After a set-up by watchers, her and the said friend who criticised her, have a huge argument. And she tells the police all about the game, and how dangerous it is. She is warned at the beginning of joining as a player, that snitches get stitches. So she gets knocked out, and wakes up in a cell with a TV screen talking at her (Orwellian vibes at this stage). Because she snitched she has now become part of a third category within the game. Neither player nor watcher, she is now a prisoner. The only way out to be in the final round of the game, and win – or she is trapped forever. In the end, she fakes her death and she wins and the game is shut down by her geeky programming friends.
Although this is a somewhat far-fetched concept of an online game, particular elements explored within the film are comparable to issues identified within social media.
Focusing on Instagram, (as I feel this was the closest of the social media platforms to the game) these were the parallels I found:
Addiction & Insecurity- Within the film, players will go to extreme lengths to complete dares / because completing dares equals more followers, more likes, and therefore more on-line fame.
This also occurs on Instagram. Users will go to extreme lengths to increase popularity online:
There is huge pressure on social media for participants with a number of ‘’followers’’ to maintain a certain image, and also to be constantly active. The flow of the online world moves at an alarmingly fast rate – and you are expected to keep up. The mixture of these pressures, plus general insecurities, and exploitation of the female form online can have adverse effects on personal identity and body image. This can consequently lead to premature sexualisation of young females.
There has been a blur between porn and normality, which expands online through to social media. As McNair describes, ‘’…this revolution in the means of communication has fanned the growth of a less regulated, more commercialised, and more pluralistic sexual culture (in terms of the variety of sexualities which it can accommodate), and thus promoted what I will describe as a democratisation of desire…’’ (McNair, 2002:11)
Blur between online & reality – ”Nerve” encapsulates it’s users by using money incentives, but in addition to this users want to gain followers, and online fame as discussed above. This immersion into the game created a blur between reality and online.
This can be seen on Instagram also.
A poignant example of this is the case of Essena O’Neill, an 18 year old ‘’Insta-famous’’ female who had thousands of followers, and was addicted to social media. She would go to extreme lengths to convey a ‘’perfect’’ lifestyle and appearance on Instagram.
“I’ve spent the majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status, and my physical appearance,” she writes in her last Instagram post, which shows a cartoon character wearing a television set on his head with “We Are A Brain-Washed Generation” written on the screen. “Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. Its contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation, in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self-absorbed judgement.” (Chung, 2015, The Huffington Post):
Although the concept of a murderous game online initially seems completely unrealistic; After further analysis, it can be said specific attributes of ”Nerve”, and how users interacted with it, are comparable to Instagram. Instagram addiction is a real issue, and users who can no longer establish between reality and the online realm, can potentially run the risk of causing detrimental affects to their mental health, social interaction and possibly even physical health in extreme cases (there has been reported cases of suicides due to social media related issues). Relying on social media for social approval is never a good thing. I don’t think this is the last we will be hearing about it, unfortunately.