As technology begins to progress for society, so does the can of worms that surrounds each and every issue, and idea that technology touches; in simpler terms, as technology progresses, so the concepts that they affect. Technology seems to be engulfing the human experience nowadays, as there is literally just about a certain technology, or application that can be used for any issue; this can include small services like turning pictures on your phone into framed photos, buying followers for your social media, and even large-scale services like soliciting sexual partners, and finding dates online. Applications like Tinder, Black People Meet, Farmer’s Only, Christian Mingle, Hello Cupid, eHarmony, Match, Zoosk, Grindr, and Our Time are all sites that can be used to find long term, and short-term partners. Technology for love and intimacy can even go as far as purchasing sex dolls or joining groups online to help people create an ideal self to attract a certain kind of partner. They can help aid in casual or serious dating for anyone regardless of their situation, but what about the other technologies that can help aid in dating and love?
Technology through the scope of Black Mirror
Again, as technology progresses, society also progresses with it, but the scope in which we look at ourselves through the looking glass is done in many ways; usually through television or any other form of televised media. Black Mirror, an anthology series created by Charlie Brooker, is one the most interesting ways that we can look at society’s relationship with technology as pertains to many different mediums, problems, and scenarios that are realistic, or mimic real life. Many technologies that are featured in the series are often being created, already have been created, or have not considered all of the possibilities that can come out of a novel creation. Episodes in the series show that dating, love, and relationships can all be impacted in both good, and bad ways through technology usage as it relates to applications, artificial intelligence, and even engrained chips in the brain.
While short term- relationships may not be ideal for the overwhelming majority of the population as a means of receiving intimacy, and love, dating is one the many ways that people get to know each other with no strings attached. In the episode “Hang the DJ”, written by Charlie Brooker, and directed by Tim Van Patten in 2017, the technology featured is a hand held, gadget called “Coach”; Coach does everything a dating app is meant to do with a twist. Coach is a simulation for two real people in actual real life. She simulates a series of dates within the simulated world by pairing two people and forcing them to stay together for a period of time; however, each person has to consent to looking at the time period at the same time, otherwise the time period is skewed (Patten & Brooker, 2017). The algorithm to the simulation is that out of all the dates that Coach simulates, there is one person that stands out; people are not allowed to leave their current simulation for another, but that’s the trick. Should Coach simulate the multiple dates and the simulation is “broken” multiple times, this is how she knows two people are compatible (Patten & Brooker, 2017). This mimics applications like eHarmony, where over 500 people a day get married after meeting on the app due to their compatibility (Matthews, 2016).
On the flip side, after people are married and have been for a while, what are the lengths that people are willing to take in order to be together long term? In the episode, “San Junipero”, written by Charlie Brooker, and directed by Owen Harris in 2016, two women are essentially able to be together even after they are dead. “San Junipero” allows their conscious to be digitally copied onto a drive where they can live together on a simulated beach/town called San Junipero; they are even allowed to pick a certain decade to live in as well. This is different than copying a mind and putting it in a new body, as seen in Altered Carbon (2018), and Avatar (2009). Their conscious are added to a digital database where they can live as simulations. Both of these technologies both mirror the ones we have in real life but can be great alternatives for dating and what can happen after death should couples want to stay together.
On the contrary of the life after death argument, there are some options that Black Mirror presented as a means of holding on to a loved one. In the episode, “Be Right Back”, written by Charlie Brooker, and Owen Harris in 2013, the main character loses her boyfriend to a car accident right around the same time she gets pregnant. As a means of still feeling as though he is alive, a friend recommends an online chat service to her that lets her still “speak” to her deceased boyfriend. After months of ‘chatting’ him, the main character decides to test their other service which is essentially an android of her late boyfriend (Harris & Brooker, 2013). While the android satisfies her sexually, as a sex doll would, she is unhappy that is it not exactly like her boyfriend; which like most sex dolls in real life, they are only realistic in a sexual aspect. Of course, she did not intend for the android to have that use, that is essentially all he becomes used for after her daughter is born.
In a more digitally advanced world that is seen in “The Entire History of You”, written by Jesse Armstrong, and directed by Brian Welsh in 2011, everyone has an embedded chip behind their ear that they can opt to remove as they get older. Referred to as “the grain”, it contains every memory ever seen from the person’s point of view, which they can show to others, project it on televisions, and even replay old memories as they are. A couple who has been together for a while meets at a dinner party, and the man finds that his girl is being too friendly with a certain man (Welsh & Armstrong, 2011). It can be seen earlier in the episode as they were being intimate, she was watching another memory. After shrugging her husband’s suspicions off for a while, and passing him off as crazy, he finally takes matters into in his own hands by confronting the other man and demanding that he delete the memories of his wife; he does, and upon confronting his wife, she confesses. He cannot stop thinking about their separation and cuts his own grain out of his ear. These are the kinds of examples where technology, dating, and intimacy can go very wrong.
Black Mirror is one of the many mediums that can depict the human experience as it relates to a certain issue. Episodes in the series show that dating, love, and relationships can all be impacted in both good, and bad ways through technology usage as it relates to applications, artificial intelligence, and even engrained chips in the brain.
- Armstrong, J. (Writer), & Welsh, B. (Director). December 18, 2011. Black Mirror. [The Entire History of You] In House of Tomorrow (Producer), Endemol Shine UK. Los Gatos: Netflix.
- [bookmark: _Hlk536290227]Brooker, C. (Writer), & Harris, O. (Director). February 11, 2013. Black Mirror. [Be Right Back] In House of Tomorrow (Producer), Endemol Shine UK. Los Gatos: Netflix.
- Brooker, C. (Writer), & Harris, O. (Director). October 21, 2016. Black Mirror. [San Junipero] In House of Tomorrow (Producer), Endemol Shine UK. Los Gatos: Netflix.
- Brooker, C. (Writer), & Harris, T. V. (Director). December 29, 2017. Black Mirror. [Hang the DJ] In House of Tomorrow (Producer), Endemol Shine UK. Los Gatos: Netflix.
- Matthews, H. (2016, September 30). eHarmony Success Rate (7 Surprising Stats). Retrieved from https://www.datingadvice.com/online-dating/eharmony-success-rate