''We're in a social media era - that's how we are going to be defined 1,000 years from now,'' said Shubham Goel, a virtual-reality designer from Danville, Calif,. who is a contestant on the American version.

''I think the show really encapsulates the world more than anything at this time.''

Producers clearly hope they have distilled the essence of our times. Ratings for the British ''The Circle'' have been modest [1.2 million viewers on average], but the series has been catnip among 16-to-34-year-olds :

The first season was Channel 4's ''youngest profiling'' show in six years, according to the British TV industry magazine Broadcast, drawing half its viewers from that sought-after demographic.
''The starting point I'd had is : What would a reality show look like where people never met face to face?'' said Tim Harcourt, the creative director of Studio Lambert, which produces the original British series and the international version for Netflix.

''At the same time, I had also been toying with a 'Rear Window' style documentary where you could virtually see all these people in their apartments, living there lives, but they were atomized.''

DONNING masks for reality TV : Contestants on ''The Circle'' interact with one another via social media only.

''Message : 'Hey girls, hey. I want to start this chat just to get to know all of you. Girls who stick together are pretty girls.' Emoji heart........''

Alana Duval, 25, from Brownsville, Texas, begins a group chat with three of her seven fellow contestants. They are sitting in separate apartments, never meet in person, and they bond and back stab only only through online profiles and a voice activated social media platform.

It may not immediately strike you as a killer television format. But the drama had already begun.

''How old is Alana again?'' wondered another contestant, Samantha Cimarelli. ''Because she's acting like she's in high school.''

When ''THE CIRCLE'' debuted in Britain in 2018, cultural commentators were skeptical, to say the least. The Guardian predicted ''fame hungry nitwits sitting, alone in their pants spewing small talk online,'' and asked if the concept heralded ''the coming of the apocalypse.''

BUT the series, a reality competition show in which ''anyone can be anyone,'' soon became a cult hit. Within a month, that same newspaper was hailing it as one of the standout TV shows this year,'' and  Netflix snapped up the global rights.

A 12-episode American version premiered Jan. 1. and Brazilian Nd French versions are in the pipeline. 

Contestants craft their online profiles with the focus and precision of a brain surgeon. While some opt for full-frontal honesty, other exploit the the artifice of  social media to experiment with their identities - or purely to help win the $100,000 prize.

Past impostors, known as catfish in social media parlance, have switched gender or sexual orientation, pretended to be their sons or girlfriends, and even invented babies and deadpets.

But how did producers turn this flurry of emojis and hashtags into binge-worthy entertainment?

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on Reality TV and Future, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Etan Smallman.


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