The Circle, Week 2: Real/Fake

Alex/Adam

I’m still your cuddle toy.

– Alex/Adam

Sammie immediately reads that Alex/Adam’s profile pic looks like it’s straight out of an ad, or a commercial. You have two Adams, with the addition of Bill – so, there’s definitely a fake, or a catfish. Real Adam vs. Catfish Adam. People are on to Alex. Something’s off. He immediately comes up on the catfish radar.

Like I described, last week, you want an unprofessional pic, an unfiltered profile pic – not a glamour shot. ‘Glam glam’ is not approachable. You want a photo that hasn’t been touched up and nothing that seems fake. Too hot is too threatening and intimidating. You want to be unassuming and approachable. No fake positive messages, on your profile page. No tons of hot photos, on the beach. Anyone who says “ladies,” twice in a single message, reads as sleazy and super fake.

Alex/Adam is already taking too long to come up with things to say, as a supposedly hot surfer dude. Being a catfish isn’t really paying off for him, so far. As noted earlier, every time Alex/Adam speaks, he says something ridiculous. Who actually says “romp,” in an actual conversation? “I’ve been told,” is the default sentence prefix for a lie. Mr. Opera is out of his depth. It’s like he’s trying to pretend he’s an old soul, so he sounds forced. Just try incepting the word “romp,” into a chat. Try it.

Artist Alex/Adam’s game is pure wish fulfillment, complete fantasy role playing. On the other hand, an author, or another type of creative person, would be very good at catfishing. It’s about creating a realistic character and the world-building, of a good online RPG, or a high fantasy novel (Lord of the Rings). He should be good at the world-building, of a personality: releasing a little bit of the character, bit, by bit – show, not tell – but, he’s not.

On his own, Alex is dressing more like Adam. But with Shubby, real Alex is coming out, more and more. When role-playing as a catfish, don’t emotionally wall your real self off (re. Alex/Adam). It’s ok for your insecurities to seep through, a little bit, so long as the feeling is genuine. A genuine energy builds a genuine connection. It’s better for a catfish to allow the person underneath to come through, because your real self is obviously more genuine.

Alex/Adam is a strange but fascinating psychic entity, at the center of the real and the signified. Virtual, manufactured entities are both the signified and the signifier. Alex is experiencing his similar characters blending together. The character and the original are inhabiting the same headspace. It’s a metaphysical adventure, out of a philosophical, cyberpunk adventure, like the biggest cultural example, The Matrix – and, of course, Ghost in the Shell.

A side note: when you don’t know how long they’ve been in there, the family visit/video doesn’t connect as much. You have Alex/Adam’s wife, Gina, having to explain who she is, in the video. It’s like Alex/Adam needs a tattoo, just to remember, who he is – just like in the movie Memento.

Shubby

It’s shark season and we’re hunting.

– Sharky Shabomb (Shubby)

Influencer culture is wild: Shubby (Shubham) has HOH-itis. Why is Shubby taking the whole Influencer thing at face value? Doesn’t he think social media is fake? It’s the heel-faced turn of the uninitiated. Shubby doesn’t know he gives off a nerdy vibe – but he’s a virtual media engineer, who doesn’t do social media. Earnest Shubby is the only one who actually does the 50 push-ups. Shubby is not street smart.

How did Shubby get the Liberty Bell answer wrong? Rocky? Shubby is still on this ‘I don’t like social media’ vibe. He doesn’t want to allow himself to like it. How does pool table equal frat? A pool table, in your friend’s basement, doesn’t read as professional. Shubby is so sheltered. Worse, Shubby is so good, he is a threat, that no one can see in the Finals. Shubby gets upset about someone being political, on The Circle – when he’s the youngest person, in the U.S., to run for governor, in California.

But that’s the extent of my criticism: Shubby is likable and non-threatening. He is a two-time influencer and is very trustworthy. Being the one unfiltered person, in a sea of filtered profile pics, is a plus, on The Circle. Be unassuming. Also, cutthroat Shubby is here. Sharks hunt catfish now, apparently. It’s Calculating Shubby; the claws are coming out.

Seaburn/Rebecca

Are you ready to sip on your tea, this morning?

– Seaburn/Rebecca

Spill the tea, get the juice. It’s the morning Kiki, where we spill all the tea. Seaburn/Rebecca isn’t working. ‘Rebecca’ is a caricature, a poorly written female character. Seaburn is also running out of material. Seaburn/Rebecca is Ms. Doutbtfire, but not in a clever way. Of course, there will be many references to Ms. Doubtfire, on a show about catfish. Does Seaburn know anything about his girlfriend?

Then, Seaburn/Rebecca goes on a romantic dinner – between two catfish. This is like a big role-playing game – that’s how the two catfish dating comes across. It’s all very stilted, like a text-based video game. Shubby also thinks Rebecca is so true; Rebecca is a catfish. Imagine if Rebecca/Seaburn came clean, instead of Sean.

Rebecca is so dull, Seaburn can get away with being a catfish. Seaburn is inhabiting his character and exploring his gender identity, as a female catfish. Even by himself, Seaburn is reacting like Rebecca, and not like himself. In this way, he is a successful catfish. Shubby and Rebecca have a good friendship, but Rebecca is a man. However, Rebecca is the only original person, in the alliance, of the original people, who is just an afterthought. She’s the (cat)fish at the bottom of the barrel.

Sean

Sean’s story is about the revelation that builds trustworthiness. ‘I’m truthful about a lie, so I must be trustworthy,’ – like Dr. Will’s big reveal, in Big Brother. When the catfish gives up, on being a catfish – the reveal, to the audience, doesn’t work, because we don’t know Sean’s catfish persona very well, or at all.

Sean’s big reveal would have been more effective, if Sean had come in first, and not later. Her big display, of vulnerability, feels rushed and inauthentic, because Sean just got here. Was the event a predetermined big reveal, or could she just not keep lying anymore?

The real message of The Circle is that no, you can’t be whoever you want, online. It’s actually way harder than you think. Maybe we haven’t had hot model Sean for very long, because she planned to reveal hot plus-sized model Sean, all along. That production would let her add another picture, means that she was planning this reveal, from the get-go.

Why would anyone ever post a bunch of pictures highlighting how hot they are? The quintessential insta model set of photos equals fake, or a catfish/bot. However, the group not wanting to let go of a person that they have experienced such an emotional event with, may lead to them not blocking the reformed, unmasked catfish.

Can Sean break into the Final 5? Will the original people get rid of unmasked catfish Sean? Wouldn’t it have been interesting if Sean was a catfish, of a catfish? In a future season, it might be cool to see a scenario where the supposed real self is just yet another catfish.

In the Loop

Loyalty.

– Boston Rob

Game talk: Double eviction/blocking soon. With the new people versus the original people, it’s like the two original tribes, post merge, acting as a merged tribe, on Survivor. I like adding fresh players. There are no purple (invisible) edits since they are only 8 or 9 people, in the house, at any one time. There are stakes to every elimination and no throwaway characters. However, when the new people don’t read very well, when they don’t click, it may be just too many people added, too quickly. There are too many interesting storylines already. We just can’t spend a lot of time, with the new people.

Bill, a likable person, who you want to have a beer with, just doesn’t pop, halfway through the game. Sometimes being likable isn’t enough. It’s the main cast versus the B cast. You can tell why some people were sent in later, as opposed to being sent in first. Like I said, they were added too late and too fast. The barriers to entry, for caring about the new people, are too high.

The natural instinct is to support the original tribe and keep the original tribe’s numbers strong. It’s hard to fight the natural instinct to keep the original people. Loyalty dog whistles and hidden messages are being disseminated, as the Final 5, original people secret group, that everyone is talking around, appears. The originals want to make sure the new people and old people don’t tie up, when it comes to voting people out. The new people are just cannon fodder, red shirts.

Natural ways to expose catfish are good TV, but may not lend to a good social game. It’s a trade-off. Some original people want to use the catfish, as goats, and meat shields. The flip-side is that it’s actually not that easy to drag someone to the end. The players must consider who is going to get taken for granted, when people start voting tactically – to use a term from The Circle UK. Even one person refusing to vote tactically, in the end, can win someone else the entire game. What are the winner possibilities, if everyone is voting tactically? What is the probability or likelihood of a certain person voting tactically? The winner will be announced on insta.

The Circle: Bubble People

You don’t put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.

– Joey

No airbrushing, filters or being too perfect, on FB and insta. It makes one seem too much like a bot. Too perfect is not appealing. You need a Goldilocks effect: just right. Like the person next door. I like the profile picture analysis. A variety of photos shows more sides of yourself, and is more proof that you’re not catfish, so long as it’s not obvious that you’re trying too hard.

A more individualized profile is more grounded, and more relatable. No filters, and no makeup equates to being more real. Have a natural glow and a personality that’s hard to fake. That’s how to survive the rise of the bots and catfish, on the internet. Human vulnerability and uniqueness will save us all.

The tension of the show is how real-life social media differs from the in-house social network, of The Circle. Contestants must compare and contrast what it means to understand the masses, versus what it takes to understand around twelve people. The question of which kind of fakeness is rewarded, in our society, was also explored in the Black Mirror social media episode, “Nosedive” – another Netflix show.

It’s interesting to see how social media rewards us – in the miniature – on The Circle. Contestants call out other people for being fake, in a game, about being fake. The fakest person is always on the lookout for who’s fake. This is on an online show, that is by its very nature, artificial and virtual.

I like that fresh players can still be added, to the game, after the game starts. It’s like unlocking a new character in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Gamification and parallels between social media and video games are also investigated, by the show. Shubby is a virtual media designer that dislikes social media – when an online social network is essentially just light virtual reality. Shubby, who fears fakeness the most, is the least prepared to recognize fakeness. He gets taken in by both of the catfish, on The Circle. No wants to feel led on.

On Tinder, and other social networking sites, so much is decided on just a profile pic and a bio (or lack thereof). So much is at stake, on a profile pic, in real life, that a profile picture competition, on The Circle, is realistic and timely. What I like about The Circle is how the show gamifies decisions and judgments we already have to make every day. Social media is just a highlight reel.