The new series Black Mirror premiered in October 2016 on Netflix, and the first episode of the season, “Nosedive,” told the story of how people’s worth depended on a rating that strangers gave them—sort of like a real-time, every-interaction Instagram.
Black Mirror’s main character, Lacie, tries very hard to be extra nice to everyone she meets, so she can keep her 4.2 out of 5 star rating. As Lacie tries to get into a very expensive apartment condo, she finds out she must have a 4.5 rating. Her childhood friend, a 4.8, asks her to be the maid of honor in her upcoming wedding. Lacie desperately accepts so that she can get her dream condo.
However, on the way to the wedding, she deals with a cancelled flight, a broken down rental car, and has a huge fight with her brother; who points out that she cares more about the ratings than anything or anyone else. Any of these events would put a person in a bad mood. But in a world where you cannot act out, you cannot yell, you cannot swear, basically, you can have no other reaction than simply smiling and nodding. No one will help you for fear of their rating going down with you.
As I watched this episode, it made me think of the Baha’i writings, which speak about how every human being must be kind towards everyone and everything. Sometimes, a person is pushed to a certain limit and cannot be kind to everyone. However, as I read the Baha’i writings after watching this episode, I realized a very key component to kindness—service to others:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer to the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 93.
I realized that this episode of Black Mirror wasn’t about service; it was about selfish desires and goals. Lacie wanted an apartment, so she tried everything she could to get more points. Other characters similarly only showed kindness to one another to gain more points and therefore get more stuff—a better car, higher class plane ticket, and so forth. In the whole episode, only one character does something selfless. This character spoke her mind and told the truth, knowing people might not like it. She had a low rating in this world, but she was happier and more at peace. Her kindness, and her honesty, were sincere:
Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race. Pay ye no heed to aversion and rejection, to disdain, hostility, injustice: act ye in the opposite way. Be ye sincerely kind, not in appearance only. Let each one of God’s loved ones centre his attention on this: to be the Lord’s mercy to man; to be the Lord’s grace. Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 3.
After reading these Baha’i teachings, it put the episode into perspective. In today’s world, it’s easy to get obsessed with how many likes my post gets or how many followers I have. Instead, our actions need to be of service.
If we do something, does it better others as well? Does it help others? Of course, we will not always be pleasant 24/7, but that is because we are humans. We can help each other, but also need time to take care of ourselves too. We can and will burn ourselves out and get upset—but reminding ourselves that we make a difference in this world, however big or small, can help us understand that our actions do matter.
Above all, our actions are not about status, not about materialistic or superficial value. Watch this episode; see how everyone loses this mindset and how that one character who does a selfless good deed but has low points remembers it. See who really is happier in the world, the 4.8s or those who remember that they are human, and try to serve others as well as help themselves.