There’s a new game coming to Channel 4 soon. You can win £50,000.

It’s a factual entertainment series where contestants live together in one block, but in separate apartments. They never meet, interacting exclusively through a bespoke voice-activated social media platform called The Circle.

The most popular contestant (most likes etc.) wins £50,000. Channel 4 says:

“The Circle will enable them to chat, make friends, argue and maybe even fall in love. Building their own profiles, contestants will only get to know each other from what they choose to reveal via The Circle.

The contestants rate one another and the least liked faces will be ‘blocked’ and removed from The Circle.


OK let’s pause.

I am going to guess how you might feel about this. Your knee-jerk response. Just for fun.

I am going to guess that you think this is a stupid game. Vacuous and unintelligent people doing vacuous and unintelligent things. A microcosm of only a certain type of person. Big Brother with the ‘stupid’ dial turned up.

Let The Circle digest.

Maybe you’d like read this next bit as you think?

In Other News

There’s a new game that came into our lives about 10 years ago. You can win nothing. And lose everything.

It’s a real, here-and-now thing called Social Media where participants live anywhere and everywhere. They almost never meet, interacting largely through a very small range of popular platforms on the Internet.

The huge majority (we are probably talking 99.999%) can not benefit in any shape or form from this game.

“These platforms will enable people to chat, make friends, argue, threaten, bully (and I mean really bully), abuse, hurt, mentally attack and torture, practice cowardice to never-before-seen levels… and maybe even fall in love. Building their own egos, participants will only get to know each other from what they choose to reveal via these platforms.

The participants rate one another and the least liked may feel so ostracised, battered, bullied, inadequate, unhappy and desperate that they kill themselves by hanging themselves, drug overdoses, slitting their wrists and more. They are generally discovered by their families and others close to them when they choose to do this.  As I understand it.

The Game

I personally welcome The Circle.

It is an opportunity for me, and you if you like, to point at Channel 4’s ‘social experiment’ and articulate clearly what it actually is.

It’s a game. And games have winners and losers.

If you don’t want to be in The Circle, don’t play. Because if you don’t win, you lose.

If you don’t like The Circle, switch it off.

It’s a game.

And the same rules apply to Social Media.

If you don’t want to be in the Social Media game, don’t play it like a game. Games have winners and losers.

It’s hard, I know. But I think this is what I will tell Izzy Willow as she gets older. I’ll try my best, anyway.

I really do think the more we realise that the first and biggest mistake people make with social media is playing it like a real-life game, thinking that if you are not winning you are losing, the better. And what Channel 4 said is important:

…contestants will only get to know each other from what they choose to reveal via The Circle.

If you do insist in playing such a dangerous game for real – please – remember this. You are not actually getting to know anyone that is even remotely real. You meet only the version that someone wants to show you.

There are no prizes for winning.

And the price of losing can be the biggest cost of all.

Photo: Izzy Willow Owen, aged 2. Photographer: Michael Owen.


  1. Louise Northwood Reply

    Love this post . From one who freely admitted an addiction to twitter years ago and now has more ACTUAL friends its apt.

    • It’s lovely to see you Louise. Please call back lots! I hope life is good.

      And yes, this story is about what Social Media is – and what it isn’t. I think that the very first step is framing it properly.

      We should shape it. Not the other way around.


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