If you're a self-proclaimed dating app addict, then the Black Mirror trailer for a Season 4 episode called "Hang The DJ" might make you feel a little uneasy about that fact. In true Black Mirror style, the trailer looks as though the episode is set at an unknown point in the future, and appears to show a time where romantic relationships are solely dictated by an app called "The System." The app, which doesn't feel too distant from the ones we currently use to find love-matches, appears as a Siri-style voice which proclaims, "Everything happens for a reason." Interestingly, the app also appears to give each new relationship an expiration time before either person has had much of a chance to know whether they even like each other yet.
Though dating apps are currently remiss of such features (thank goodness), the trailer feels eerie in its commentary of current dating trends. It appears to raise the question of whether letting algorithms and systems dictate who our potential partners could be, that we're also sacrificing a certain degree of autonomy and romance in the process. Toward the end of the trailer we see a couple getting married who enthuse that The System "really does work" in finding the person you're supposed to be with. Making this statement a little hard to believe, however, is a sense that the painfully broad smiles and hysterical laughter of the two may be as forced as their coupling was — and just as unsettling.
For some people, dating apps are a great way to enjoy casual hook-ups, or to simply waste a Tuesday night by flirting with some random person who they have no intentions of meeting in real life. For others, it's a legitimate way of finding long-term relationships with people they may not have met otherwise. However, though they have their upsides, they also have a lot worthy of criticism, too, as the "Hang The DJ" trailer appears to touch upon in its narrative.
Just this year, for instance, a study published in the journal, Psychological Science, indicated that romantic connections can't be predicted based on algorithms, like those formed within dating apps. The study was based upon two samples of speed daters who met in a series of four-minute dates. Prior to the dates, the daters filled out questionnaires regarding over 100 of their preferences in a potential partner. After each speed date, the participants rated their interactions to indicate what level of interest and sexual attraction they had for each person they met.
The researchers found that though it was possible to predict the overall tendency to like and be liked by others, it wasn't possible to predict which two people were a match, the way that dating apps often do. In a press release, Samantha Joel, who was the lead author of the study, explained,
"Dating can be hard and anxiety provoking and there’s a market there for a short cut. What if you didn’t have to kiss all the frogs? What if you could skip to the part where you click with someone? But our data suggests that, at least with the tools we currently have available, there isn’t an easy fix for finding love."
This won't be news to anyone who's had the great displeasure of meeting up with a Tinder crush in real life only to discover a complete lack of chemistry. This perhaps what makes the trailer for "Hang The DJ," so chilling. It feels as though it echoes the disappointments of dating apps, while also suggesting a time when we're completely reliant on them. Imagine how much worse that date could be with the Tinder crush, if you were forced to instead try gallantry to make it work. Or, having to break up with someone you share a deep connection with, because an algorithm suggested you couldn't possibly be a match. That's a bleak world proposition, but worryingly, it doesn't feel too far-fetched.
The Netflix premiere date for the new season of Black Mirror has yet to be announced, but judging from the speed with which trailers are being released for it, we should hopefully not have too long to wait. "Hang The DJ" is the fourth trailer so far from the upcoming season, and has followed similarly unnerving previews for episodes, "Crocodile," "Black Museum," and "Arkangel." All of which have successfully teased what looks set to be yet another disturbing season of technological dystopia for Charlie Brooker's critically acclaimed show. And judging from the "Hang The DJ" trailer, this season might even be enough to make you want to finally kick dating apps for good.