First airing on January 1st, 2020, The Circle is a Netflix reality competition show meant to stimulate the online world of social media in real life. Contestants are invited to an apartment complex, where each contestant is barred from actually seeing each other, and are forced to only interact via their social media accounts. By encouraging the contestants to deliberate shape and lie about their identities to seem more appealing, the show represents the common online practice of catfishing and shows its toxic and competitive nature. Periodically, the contestant whose online identity has the lowest “rating” would get eliminated. The show quickly climbed in popularity and was renewed for a second and third season in late March.
In the era of pandemics, the theme portrayed in The Circle has gotten more and more pertinent and offers a chillingly realistic image and reminder of the people sitting behind their screens. Its concept hits close to home by talking about social media, a familiar platform both for teenagers and young adults who have always had an active presence online, and also for the older generations who have recently discovered the online world in the midst of quarantine. But more importantly, it exposes an aspect of social media that we rarely get to see as its users. From a birdseye view, the audience of the show can see the shy 30-year-old behind Chad flirting with the girls, the sometimes-boring and sometimes extremely gripping moments of waiting for someone to respond to your flirtatious message, and the shame of getting exposed for who you truly are behind the identity wall you have hidden behind. The quarantine has led to a world of isolation. Research shows that, right now, about 1 in 3 people express feelings of loneliness, and as many as 1 in 12 are feeling loneliness severely. This is caused by the increasingly online world. Without ever coming face to face with people, human interaction now only exists in a pixelated dimension, where all one can see is the edited and beautified version of people. In quarantine, we rarely get to form the human connection from the person behind the screen. The Circle serves as a reminder that, behind all the fronts we put up, there are still real people, with real, common emotions, sitting behind every social media account. This message is timelier and more pertinent now than it has ever been before.
Done well, The Circle definitely could have been one of the most interesting shows running on Netflix right now and demonstrated all the aspects of human nature that would have taught lessons and connected people. However, with the contestants being newcomers to the world of reality television, the entire show struggles to ever reach a dramatic peak. With the way The Circle has been structured, almost every interaction the viewer sees involves different contestants in isolation, chatting with each other in their rooms. Even with all the development of social media and technology so far, it is unfortunately still not enough to make a show centered around a glorified chatroom interesting. The only actual interpersonal interaction in the show occurs after contestants have gotten eliminated, and the show is over. By then, either most contestants are tired of the show already and not bothered to try, or most viewers no longer care because a winner had already been declared. Reality TV is interesting because of the drama between characters, but with isolation being the central concept, the show is simply a snippet of different solo scenes mashed together, which isn’t half as interesting to watch as simply a regular reality show not centered around texting. A good Netflix show should represent a break from the routine online lifestyle that quarantine has forced us into, and the boring texting that The Circle is full of simply does not manage to do that.
[P1] The Circle offers an interesting look into the mundane lives of people that exist behind glamorous social media accounts. [P2] In quarantine, people need more exposure to the humans that live behind screens in order to make us less lonely.
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P1] The Circle is often way too mundane because it purely centers around solo thoughts and chatroom interaction. [Rejecting P2] What people need in quarantine is not to see other people in isolation as well, but to be reminded of life before the pandemic.