Vicious Circle is our sad reality.
Byline: Sara Wallis on TV
WINKY face, double heart, thinking face, upside-down confused emoji. Yes, I've been through a ton of emotions watching C4's The Circle.
Frankly I'm not sure how I ever managed to convey sarcasm before 'winking face with tongue'.
The arrival of this social media reality show has taken Twitter and Instagram - and several other platforms I've never heard of - by storm. A game show with cash to be won, it gets straight down to the reality of a reality show. Win a popularity contest. That's it.
Why bother with the pretence of learning to dance, cook, milk a cow, lose weight, skate, find love, find yourself or live in a caravan?
Welcome to the future. If the whole point is being popular, then let's just get down to business. It's slightly depressing, but it saves time. This three-week show sees strangers communicate through a voice-activated social media platform called The Circle. It makes Amazon's Alexa look as modern as an Atari Lynx.
"You can be whoever you want to be," gushed host Alice Levine, as if that was a good thing. Quick, kids, go reinvent yourself - pretend you're younger, fitter, sexier. Post a fake profile picture of someone with on-fleek lashes or bench pressing their dog. No one will ever know.
Alice and co-host Maya James only alluded to the sinister side - that you don't ever know who you're talking to online.
And everyone is lying. There's a fake man, fake woman, secret mum, secret gay, secret model. Jennifer, the first to be voted most unpopular, was a fake doctor.
Popular Kate is entirely fictitious. That says it all. She's really Alex, who is pretending to be his girlfriend to flirt with lads and be chummy with the girls.
Occasionally it's amusing but mostly it's a bit sad. Each person is isolated, paranoid and bored, waiting for a message. They are rated and slated by strangers.
"It stings," said Jennifer, after being brutally blocked.
Is this a snapshot of society? Are we all just alone and hooked on our devices? "I like being sociable but I like being on my own," said Dan - a sentence that wouldn't have made sense a decade ago.
"Yesterday we were strangers and now I'd class you as friends," said Freddie.
NO, Freddie. You are still strangers.
Some viewers think The Circle glamorises catfishing, others say it raises awareness. Perhaps it does both. Some are bored, others addicted. It is divisive.
Big Brother broke new ground 20 years ago, so it's fitting that as it ends, we're back on C4 with another social experiment.
I'll watch tonight, no doubt both horrified and fascinated.
Now if only there was an emoji for that.
SOCIAL FRONT: Alice and Maya