Social Media and Reality TV go hand in hand in the crazed world of image and popularity. Can we learn how to be better human beings from a show like The Circle?
Reality TV shows have been gaining popularity since the likes of Candid Camera from 1947 and 1979’s Real People. Today we have an enormous amount of shows that range from the infamous Love Island to Married at First Sight. Most of these shows revolve around human interaction, friendships, romantic relationships, nemsis… But one show stands out from the rest as it actually eliminates social interaction and brings in an all-seeing AI that goes by The Circle.
First released in 2018 by British television channel, Channel 4, in the height of social media craze, The Circle became instantly popular among its audience, so popular in fact that it led to a whole international franchise that include The Circle Brazil, France, and USA.
Essentially, in The Circle, contestants move into an apartment building, each receiving their own flat where they will remain for the duration of their time on the show. They are not allowed to see, hear, talk, or interact with the other players in any way – except through The Circle.
The Circle acts as a social media platform in which each player must post a picture and short profile to introduce themselves. After that, the players left to chat amongst each other, either in the big Circle chat or in smaller private conversations. Players are also expected to participate in a series of games and quizzes that liven up the game and try to reveal more information about each player.
The aim? Well, there are many ways to go about winning the circle. While the show claims the aim is to become the most popular player (as players who receive low ratings from the other contestants risk being eliminated), others believe the key is being strategic. It’s a true social battle where players forge allegiances and stab each other in the backs, all without every meeting before.
To make matters more confusing, players can also enter the game as a Catfish, pretending to be someone else in order to boost their popularity. The game then also becomes a race to find the catfishes and eliminate them – although this doesn’t always prove to be so easy.
Despite not being a big fan of reality TV, I find myself drawn to watching The Circle and its international variations. The show has been described as a ‘social experiment’, and in reality, it is fascinating to see the way people interact with each other, form bonds, and question each other, all through a screen.
So, here are the things I have noticed about The Circle which reflect the way many of us act on social media.
i don’t think The Circle is a game that needs to be fixed. it’s just a dumb game where someone random wins 100,000 dollars at the end. it’s like the lottery but a lot more fun #TheCircle— Matt Geoghegan (@mattyfresh24) October 1, 2021
It’s not rare to have a good amount of mishaps, arguments, and blockings on The Circle, and it’s all down to faulty communication. Players often feel the same way about each other or about another player but, when in conversation with one another they struggle to express how they feel (or don’t express it at all) which leads to the other participants questioning the player’s true intentions.
Let’s face it, how many times have you had an argument or disagreement with someone for the way they formatted something in a text? The truth is that social media is not an exact replica for real life and real conversations. A full stop, an emoji, a word could make all the difference. More often than not I have realised that it is always better to communicate openly and preferably personally with someone.
Our generation is more and more adverse to picking up the phone. We’ve trained ourselves to become expert texters with an arsenal of jokes, memes, hashtags, and who knows what else to aid us.
Judgement and Prejudice:
No matter how much we may want to be a person free from prejudice, humans can’t help but to make assumptions about other people – especially on social media. If you post a lot and have an organized Instagram feed then you give off a completely different vibe to someone who has one picture of their dog. On The Circle, the very first thing players see when they start the game is a picture of their fellow contestants. That first impression goes a long way, with some people creating instant preferences. Shallow? Perhaps, but it’s also human nature to try to associate yourself with people you identify with, or feel attracted to, whether romantically or platonically.
The interesting thing with The Circle, and sadly, real life, is that social media can be extremely fake and misleading. Unless you know someone personally, you can’t ever be 100% sure that they are who they say they are. Nowadays it’s oh so easy to pretend to be someone else. You find some photos, you tweak them, you can google information about any place in the world, and before you know it you have yourself your own fake persona.
When players Catfish on the circle, they are taking a gamble. On the one hand they are attracting a number of players that their own self would probably not attract. On the other, they are alienating participants who they may have a lot in common with.
Talking the talk:
Recently people have spoken a lot about love languages. There are five recognised love languages – acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, or physical touch. It’s somewhat the same when it comes to personalities. Not every player that goes on the circle is incredibly extroverted or loud, but in a competition where your words mean everything, you have to know how to ‘talk the talk’.
Often while watching, I’ll notice how fake someone is being, as the player is saying the nicest things and cursing someone’s name at the same time. This makes me think of many relationships I have had, whether friendly or professional, in which the way someone speaks or acts in person is very different to how they would in a text or email. When you’re behind a screen, much like I am now, it’s easy to fall into a different part of yourself, one that you can’t quite replicate in the real world.
While this isn’t a negative thing, I think it’s fair to say that you should never do or say something online that you wouldn’t have the guts to do in a room full of people. Words can hurt and have a real impact on other people’s lives, so bear that in mind and try to be as genuine as you can.
‘Be yourself’. No, honestly, do it
I think fans of The Circle will agree with me when I say that the most interesting, influential, and popular players on The Circle are those who are genuine and true to themselves. Now, when I say this I don’t necessarily mean players who don’t catfish. They might have someone else’s photograph in their profile, but if the way they conduct themselves and treat others is real and honest, then they are much more likely to succeed.
Some of the players that come to mind are Chloe Veitch, DeLeesa St. Agathe, and Kai Ghost from The Circle USA, and Raphael Dumaresq and Marina Gregory from The Circle Brazil. These five players stood out to me because of their positive and loving energy towards other players. Of course, at the end of the day they’re in it for the game and to try and win the cash prize, but they also came away with [seemingly] real connections and friendships.
I know that The Circle is an entertainment show first and foremost, but I honestly do think we all have some lessons to learn from it. Whether it’s trying not to be too quick to judge others, or finding ways to communicate effectively, there is something everyone can relate too.