Popularity is something that many people aspire to obtain at some point in their life. But for players on the Netflix series “The Circle,” being well-liked earns much more than popularity — it earns a $100,000 grand prize.
The new reality show hosts 12 players in secluded apartments striving for the same goal: to become the most popular player among the group. The only catch is none of the players get to meet face to face. All interaction in the circle happens over the shows’ own social media network, using voice-activated TV screens to post. Since the players don’t actually interact in person, this gives them the opportunity to take on personas of their choice, whether it be their own or the persona of someone they’ve never met. Catfishing is a common act in the circle.
Each round, the players interact via direct messaging, group messaging or online games. At the end of the round, all players rank one another. The well-liked players flourish at the top while the least-liked flounder at the bottom. Each round the top two players, called influencers, work together to block someone from the circle.
Like any reality show, “The Circle” offers the audience plenty of drama, but what sets this show apart are its underlying messages about today’s harsh social media environment and the importance of being yourself.
Many players, like Alana (the first player to be blocked by the influencers), entered the circle trying to prove a point. Alana, a model, entered the circle as herself. She wanted to show the world that there was more to her than just a pretty face. This, of course, led to her demise, as her beautiful, posed pictures set off alarms in the heads of other players thinking she was one of the catfish. She was immediately blocked.
Similarly, Shubham, a proud nerd with a quirky personality and a sizable hatred for social media, wanted to show the world that he could be successful just by being himself. However, he succeeded. Shubham earned the influencer title three times in a row and placed in the top five by being genuine and earning the trust of the other players.
Other players like Alex, also known as Adam, went into the circle thinking he would have a better shot at winning if he wasn’t himself. Instead, he chose to be Adam, the stereotypical attractive man with an overly flirtatious personality. He, however, was proved wrong. He wasn’t well-liked among the others and was blocked early on. When the other players learned of Adam’s true identity, they even stated they would’ve liked him better if he had just played as his goofy, overalls-wearing self.
The most successful catfish of the bunch, Seaburn, went into the circle portraying his real-life girlfriend Rebecca because he thought a woman would be better received by others than a man would. And he happened to be correct, as he became the only catfish to make it to the top five. What made Seaburn a more successful catfish than others was that he wasn’t playing with an entirely fake persona. Seaburn played with his own personality and a different face, almost like wearing a mask. His genuine personality was noticed by the other players and led to his success in the show.
Not only was this show engaging, but it also made an interesting critique on today’s social media-obsessed society. It first showed how easy it is for people to adopt fake personas on social media platforms and then proclaimed that society shouldn’t be so quick to trust things on social media.
With almost all of the catfish being blocked early on, the show also showcased the ever-so-cheesy narrative of how being genuinely yourself is always better received by others than being fake. Four members of the top five weren’t catfish — they were people who played as themselves and formed lasting relationships with the other players.