Black Mirror is a British television series that focuses on how future technology impacts our daily lives. It’s fairly dark, in a subtle kind of way. Like most shows we watch, the entertainment value leaves us shortly after the experience of watching it ends. Occasionally, we find a film that sticks with us for days after we’ve finished watching. Season one, episode three, of Black Mirror is hard to shake if you’ve spent any time in a bad relationship, or a great one for that matter.
In the episode, The Entire History of You, people in the future can opt to have a small device implanted behind the ear that records their every waking moment. The device gives the subscriber a chance to experience a “redo” at any time. Memories can be recalled and replayed at will in a person’s mind, or shared on a monitor for others to watch. Replay great memories over and over again. Examine every detail of something important. Delete unpleasant or unwanted memories from the device. The choice is yours. Why rely on the faulty memory of the human brain when you can store your life, as it happened, with perfect detail?
It all sounds innocent enough until you meet Liam and Ffion, a married couple attending a dinner party. Liam sees Ffion talking to another man. Her body language, facial expressions, and even the way she laughs at one of the man’s jokes that Liam considers not funny, activate his antenna. Later, Liam replays the night’s events over and over and finally confronts his wife the next day when he decides something doesn’t seem right. Liam’s trip down the rabbit hole begins.
Imagine a fight with your partner where you can recall and replay every thing that was said and done in the past? Ever hear your spouse say, “I never said that,”? Well, in this future world you can replay exactly what was said and shove it in their face. Does your spouse bring up “stuff” that happened years ago when they argue? Most agree that’s not fighting fair. But how hard would it be to resist such temptation during an argument?
It gets worse. Have the days of hot, passionate sex with your spouse been replaced by a formulaic sex routine? The all-knowing memory chip can simply replace what is happening to you currently with an amazing memory of your past. In fact, you can replay the memories of any ex-lover or one night stand anytime you want, even when you’re alone, if you know what I mean.
It’s not a big spoiler to figure out that things don’t end well for poor Liam and Ffion. No worries though, replaying the great memories of your past can make your present great too, right?
Think about that for a minute. How much do we do this already? How often do we romanticize the past at the expense of the present? Or, do we dwell on the unpleasant instead of moving on with our lives? If you’re using your smartphone and your spouse is sitting across the table watching you right now, you are ignoring the present. You may not be reliving an old memory like in Black Mirror, but you are sure using technology to disconnect from someone in your present.
When relationships end, we often wrestle with what to do with the memories of those relationships. If a memory only exists for you and one other person, what happens to it when that other person is not around anymore? Nothing actually. It’s all yours to keep. What you do with those memories is up to you, but if you find yourself replaying them at the expense of what’s happening in your life right now, you may have a memory chip problem.
It’s always tempting to replay the good times when things seem to be going, well, not so great. In the end, this episode of Black Mirror ends up being pretty scary. Sometimes we need a reminder to live in the now. Replaying the ghosts of relationships past can affect your present.
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