In its latest episode, “App Development and Condiments,” NBC’s Community took on social networking trends, transforming the titular Greendale Community College into a dystopic wasteland with the introduction of social ranking app MeowMeowBeenz.
The premise of the app is simple: as explained by the in-show developers, MeowMeowBeenz “lets you say how much you like, who you like, when you like, all from a standard non-Boost Mobile phone.” It essentially takes normally unspoken social hierarchy based on qualitative coolness, and quantifies it into a measurable metric from 1-5 stars. It’s a people-rating app.
Naturally, the social order is thrown into wild disarray. Over the course of the show’s half-hour runtime, the college’s order crumbles into a caste-based utopia akin to Brave New World or The Hunger Games. On one end of the spectrum are the Ones: they are banished to “the wastes,” cast outside the school’s walls; on the other end are the Fives: they dress in all white, have their own exclusive palace with sheets for walls, and partake in bizarre ritualistic dances. Square in the middle are the Threes, dressed in all gray so as to be the least disagreeable. Both in its spoofing of social media trends and its send-up of dystopia genre tropes, the show is wildly funny.
But the episode raises a sharp point: just how much does our social media define us?
We try to keep tight control over as much of our social media as possible–every new profile or service is a new opportunity to reshape our own identities. How many of us obsessively pore over our privacy settings on Facebook? Do you know any people who calculate when or what to post on Tumblr or Instagram to optimize the numbers of likes? How different are our interactions between social media and real life?
The AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff provided a pointed analysis in his own review of the episode, speaking on us humans and our Internet identities:
We’re placing the version of ourselves that we want the world to see, the version that’s cooler or smarter or funnier than the real human being making those posts. We are, in some sense, reducing ourselves to fictional characters, less susceptible to pain or anger, at least until people needle at us, and we act as if that needling is directly attacking our core selves, instead of just some projection we’ve made to get more popular online.
With the introduction of MeowMeowBeenz, Community translated those obsessions of control and identity to real life social interaction. Our avatars could no longer be just mere extensions of our personalities; they are taking our personalities over.
You can watch the full episode on Hulu.
VanDerWerff, T. (2014, March 6). Community: “App Development And Condiments”. The A.V. Club. Retrieved from http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/community-app-development-and-condiments-201914