Dan meets Kate in The Circle - screenshot from All 4

When the catfish wins, everyone loses

I’m so gutted for Dan! He seemed like the one straight-up, trustworthy guy on Channel 4’s new reality show, The Circle (screenshot above). But Dan got nothing but public humiliation while his fellow contestant, Alex (aka “Kate”) walked off with the £75,000 prize.

In case you missed the show, which ended last night on Channel 4, here’s a summary: 8 contestants are holed up in an apartment block for 3 weeks, only able to communicate with each other via social media (using a specially made platform called The Circle). Every day they “rate” each other: the highest rated contestants become “influencers” and choose another contestant to “block” – or expel.

Fatal attraction

Dan and Kate quickly became friends, but Dan is being fooled. Kate is a catfish: she’s not a girl with a sweet face at all, she’s a “social media comedian” called Alex. At the end of 3 weeks, the highest-rated person wins. That person ended up being “Kate” (in part thanks to Dan’s consistently high ratings).

Last night’s show took on a bit of a Hunger Games quality as presenters cheered and congratulated Alex on his win while he seemed genuinely perplexed and Dan was a broken man. Twitter was alive with praise: some called it “the best TV moment” so far this year; others said they were off to do a spot of catfishing themselves.

This all makes for great entertainment – but what about the lessons learned? I hope there were counsellors backstage to pick up the broken pieces. Catfishing is a serious issue, and Alex says he wanted to draw attention to this. Or did he just want to win the prize money? Where are the psychologists talking about the human cost of catfishing. Where’s the advice on how to deal with catfishing when it happens to you?

Could do better

Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking a lot about ethics lately. Game shows like The Circle reflect behaviour and attitudes that are socially acceptable. I’m more concerned about ethics in politics and business, and especially in the way we develop and use technology.

That’s why it’s great to see the events like the Digital Ethics Summit and the Open Data Summit coming up. They’ll be looking at how we consume, share and use data, and assessing the role of social media in society today. They’ll be discussing privacy and identity, and asking how we can identify and address ethical, digital concerns.

I’m also wondering if it’s not time that we re-introduced Ethics in education? Not the stuffy old religion-based variety, but a new, future-focused hybrid. Because if we don’t put ethics at the centre of our technological development, the only logical outcome is a world full of catfish.

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