The Circle: that’s how I roll

It’s very rare that I feel compelled to write something about a TV show, but here I am, telling you about The Circle.

Some of us here at Relish are obsessed, and I mean obsessed. We have the WhatsApp group from last year, we follow the programme and the players on their social channels, we have the app, and we’re listening to podcasts. We have gone Circle-mad. We had already debriefed the opening episode by 9.30am.

But why? Why am I telling you this?

Essentially, it’s a show that plays to one of our core values – curiosity.

For those that don’t know, it’s a show in which contestants, unknown to each other, live in individual apartments and communicate through a social platform only. They don’t see or hear each other, apart from what they choose to portray. What they chose to portray can be completely true, a slight fabrication of their lives, or a complete lie and a new persona all together.

Now, I suspect I know what you’re thinking – Trash TV, right?

I actually think it’s more than that, and I think there’s a lot there that applies to us and our way of working when it comes to understanding people.

Our First Impression

Players in The Circle have to make a good first impression in the group to ensure that they are not ousted from the start. They’re thinking carefully about every move as it could be their last. Hugely relevant for us as researchers – we need to make sure, where possible, we open people up to get beyond this first impression. Otherwise, what we’ll get is the best version of themselves only.

Our Long Game

What I find fascinating about The Circle is that, beyond this, they have to keep interacting with other people multiple times per day, without ever meeting them. They need to ensure they’re consistent and that they’re interesting and exciting every time they talk to someone else. Watch how relationships change, grow or collapse as they get to know each other. This is something we must consider. We’re often faced with the snapshot alone, and there is so much more beyond this to getting to know people. They won’t tell us everything at first, they won’t share every last detail until trust is formed. Playing the long game with participants is the best way to unlocking those additional insights for us.

Our Online Self

We know that people might have slightly different personalities on their online profiles than real life, but have we considered how this applies to our work online? Fundamentally, it is important to ensure we get past any potential masks that participants are holding up with effective task design, interaction and reward (for content, not financially).

Our Text Language

Players in The Circle dictate their messages to the platform to send. Watch the difference between different players with how comfortable they are with this. What they’re saying / typing often come across as very different things. Think about the amount of time someone has taken to answer a question. How many times did they spend editing have they deleted their initial answer? Does it truly reflect what they’re trying to say? How else can we get them to respond?

Our Relationships

Fundamentally, the show is about building the right relationships to get what they need from it (£100k, I think). Cynical, but essentially, we pick and choose relationships in life to get the most out of it for ourselves. Watching how these form, and how people change as a result of them is fascinating. We speak to people in isolation from their usual groups – how important is it for us to get an understanding of how they think and behave when in different scenarios?

You might still think it’s Trash TV, and that I’m just trying to rationalise an obsession. Have a watch and I bet you can’t help but get gripped by the interactions that you’re seeing unfold. Here’s hoping they don’t turn it too much into the commercial commodity that was Big Brother!