Just Sociology

The Circle: A Timely and Provocative Look at Social Media Identity

The Circle is a reality competition show that premiered in early 2020 on Netflix. The show’s unique format has enticed audiences worldwide, with its emphasis on social media profiles and virtual communication, eliminating the need for face-to-face interaction.

Contestants live in separate apartments and compete to become the most popular player by forming alliances and strategically voting to eliminate players. This article provides an overview of The Circle, including its format, interface, and sociological observations surrounding the show.

The sociological observations will include insights on the contestants’ unrepresentativeness, interaction patterns, and the application of Erving Goffman’s theory of The Presentation of Self In Every Day Life.

Format of The Circle

The Circle is a reality competition show that is formatted to resemble a popularity contest rather than a traditional reality show. Unlike shows like Survivor or The Bachelor, where contestants are required to partake in physical challenges and compete for romantic love or money, The Circle focuses on contestants’ social media profiles and personal judgments of each other.

Contestants communicate with each other exclusively through a social media network under the guise of being someone else, whether it’s through a fake profile or their own but embellished. Contestants vote for one another to be eliminated, and the last person standing wins $100,000.

The format of the show eliminates the need for face-to-face interaction and instead relies on the contestants’ ability to read people through their online personas.

Interface of The Circle

The show’s interface reflects its social media storyline: participants communicate through the built-in social media platform on a television in their individual apartments. The platform comprises private messages, group chats, a news feed, and player ratings.

Players can also become social media ‘influencers’ by rating each other highly, granting them safety from the nomination process. This interface creates diverse communication, such as group chats, which provide an opportunity for alliances to form, while private chats allow for personal conversations to occur.

Player ratings are the most significant determinant for the nomination process, making it crucial for contestants to maintain a popular social media profile. The utilization of emojis is a core part of the communication interface.

Contestants have the ability to show a range of emotions in chat via emojis that express either positivity or negativity towards competitors, amplifying the idea of friendly rivalry within the game.

Unrepresentativeness of the Contestants

The Circle’s contestants are not representative of the general population. The contestants’ age varies from 19 to 40 years old, with most contestants being in their 20s or early 30s.

Age diversity is lacking, with only one contestant over 30 years old in the show’s second season. The majority of contestants are attractive and outgoing individuals, with party-type personalities.

The uniformity in the selection process may contribute to the high rate of representation of a particular demographic, further perpetuating pre-existing ideas of who should be on reality TV shows.

Interaction on The Circle

The Circle emphasizes the concept of short-burst communication, where interactions are brief and often involve the use of emojis. These short conversations are showcased in a way that makes it seem like relationships form quickly, though they lack the depth of traditional connections.

The game’s style of communication may impact the players’ willingness to be themselves while in the game. With a focus on quick interactions and short-form content, the player’s comfort with the game format heavily leans on how they present themselves on social media and how they are perceived by other players.

Application of ‘The Presentation of Self In Every Day Life’ theory

Erving Goffman’s theory of ‘The Presentation of Self In Every Day Life’ states that individuals will always attempt to present themselves in the best light possible. The concept of masks is demonstrated to be important in The Circle, with the players participating in the game by creating or adapting a social media personality.

They do this to present themselves in the best light possible to gain popularity among other players, resulting in safety from being voted off. This manipulation of identity is a core part of the show, with contestants portraying themselves in a particular way that garners judgment from other players.

Goffman’s theory sheds light on how social media has influenced the way individuals present themselves through selective sharing, reflecting the highly curated self-representation in The Circle.


The Circle’s unique format and interface have captured the attention of audiences worldwide. The show’s approach to reality television utilizes social media communication, creating an environment where contestants must rely on their personalities to gain popularity rather than physical attributes.

Despite its allure, sociological observations surrounding the show reveal the lack of representativeness among the contestants and the emphasis on short-burst communication with emojis. The use of Erving Goffman’s theory of The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life highlights the players’ willingness to present their best self to their fellow contestants.

The Circle is an exciting departure from traditional reality shows, offering a fresh take on the genre that speaks to the current cultural values of social media communication.The Circle, with its unique format and emphasis on social media communication, has been a popular watch among audiences worldwide. In this expansion, we will analyze The Circle further, exploring the timeliness and provocativeness of the show, as well as its lack of dystopian futuristic elements.

The former subtopic discusses the show’s relevance in modern society, highlighting the ways in which it portrays contemporary identity, while the latter examines why the show falls short of dystopian, futuristic elements.

Timeliness and Provocativeness of The Circle

The Circle is a timely and provocative show that taps into changing societal norms in contemporary communication through social media. The show depicts how individuals can be anyone they choose on social media, a concept that has become prevalent in today’s society and affects how we construct our identity.

The Circle showcases the power of social media and its potential impact on identity, including how we perceive ourselves and how we want others to perceive us. The show’s focus on the online persona and its influence on interpersonal communication can be seen as timely given it represents how social media is beginning to feel an ever more present feature in everyday life.

This relevance connects the show to its viewers’ ongoing concerns with contemporary cultural trends. Furthermore, The Circle’s provocation throughout the show is linked to how it challenges our understanding of interpersonal communication, identity, and trust.

It raises questions about the authenticity of social media communication and the purpose of the platforms. The Circle showcases how individuals often express themselves differently on social media, and this is considered when making edits to their profiles or responses to messages.

The show’s participants showcase how important curating their online spaces are to them by playing to who they believe others want them to be. While it is a game show, it still represents a wider contemporary trend of social media’s impact on our identity.

Lack of Dystopian Future in The Circle

One advantage of The Circle not embodying dystopian, futuristic qualities is that it maintains a balance between the playful, competitive nature of the game show and an awareness of the contestants’ emotional wellbeing. There are no explicit consequences for contestants who are voted off, such as being forcefully removed from the game in a dystopian manner.

Instead, contestants bow out gracefully, proving that the implications on their emotional state far outweigh those of a simple game show with rules and consequences. The show’s game format plays a significant role in making viewers aware of contestants’ comfort levels, who are not made to feel helpless or isolated.

Players can quit the game if they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, whereas other competitive shows might not offer the same level of freedom to exit. Instead, the game style of The Circle caters to the individual, offering the potential for contestants to express themselves while maintaining a level of control not often seen in other reality television shows.

The balance it has struck between provocation and comfort is essential, particularly given the emphasis on curating one’s online image affects contestants in a way that might be onerous if not clearly separated from the pressures and expectations of their life outside the game. The lack of dystopian element in the show also adds to its entertainment value.

The Circle focuses on the fun and entertainment factor of a game show rather than the fear and suspense that dystopian game shows would typically instill in their viewers. The format already creates enough tension and drama to sustain viewers’ attention without the need for the anxiety of dystopian elements that might obscure the entertainment experience.


The Circle is a show that is both timely and provocative, with its timely portrayal of social media communication and its provocative relationship to identity and interpersonal communication. Yet the show also departs from the dystopian, futuristic elements found in other competitive shows, allowing for a balance between entertainment factor and impact on players’ emotional well-being.

The Circle creates an enjoyable experience for viewers while still effectively commenting on contemporary cultural trends. Its format is both connected to the social media culture that it showcases while still maintaining control over how its message is delivered to the viewer.


In conclusion, The Circle represents a unique approach to reality television that centers on the influence of social media on communication and identity in contemporary society. The show’s format and interface place great emphasis on the players’ social media profiles, while also showcasing the potential implications these trends have for young individuals in shaping their self-representation.

The Circle not only entertains, but it also sheds light on the need for further reflection on social media’s impact on personal identity in contemporary culture. FAQs:

Q: What is the format of The Circle?

A: The Circle is a reality competition show where contestants live in separate apartments and have no face-to-face interaction, instead communicating via a social media platform designed for the show. Q: How do contestants interact on The Circle?

A: They communicate through private messages, group chats, a news feed, and by rating each other, with the highest-rated players becoming influencers. Q: Who are the contestants in The Circle?

A: The contestants are primarily in their 20s and 30s, outgoing and attractive individuals with party-type personalities. Q: What is Erving Goffman’s theory of The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life, and how does it apply to The Circle?

A: The theory of The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life states that individuals will try to present themselves in the best light possible. The Circle’s contestants use a fake social media personality or an embellished profile to present their ‘best self’ to gain popularity among other players.

Q: Why is there a lack of dystopian future in The Circle? A: The lack of dystopian elements creates a balance between the show’s entertainment value while maintaining an awareness of the contestants’ emotional well-being, unlike other competitive shows where fear and suspense are instilled in viewers, which could obscure the entertainment experience.

Q: Why is The Circle considered timely and provocative? A: The Circle is considered timely, incorporating contemporary communication practices, particularly those concerning social media, into its concept.

It is considered provocative as it poses numerous questions about the authenticity of social media communication and its purpose as a platform.

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