How Players Present and Perceive Disability on ‘The Circle’
“Open Circle Chat!”
Have you seen the reality TV series “The Circle”? It was first shown in the U.K. on Channel 4, and there’s now a U.S. version on Netflix. It is well worth a watch.
I started watching it because of the psychological premise. It’s similar to “Big Brother” in that strangers move into separate apartments in the same building, and they undertake challenges set by “The Circle.” The most popular player at the end wins £100,000 ($100,000).
The unique part of the show is that the players never meet; they only interact via the Circle app on the monitor screens in their apartments. The Circle is like a social media platform that encourages players to “rate” each other daily. The pressure from being publicly “rated” leads to a lot of brown-nosing and fakery.
Because everyone interacts through this platform, nobody knows if the person they’re speaking to is being genuine or a “catfish” — someone posing as a different person. It’s astounding.
The top-rated players are known as the influencers, and they have the power to block another player. The lowest-rated players leave, more players join, and the group dynamic shifts. New partners align once again.
I bring up “The Circle” because a couple players on the second series in the U.K. had disabilities, and they “came out” in very different ways. It made me think about how people present their disabilities in real life.
The reactions from the other players were impressive. Most said she was brave for being so open about her illness, but one person thought attention-seeking was her way of attracting votes.
Another player named Paddy has cerebral palsy and uses crutches. Because his disability is so visible, he decided to keep it a secret in the Circle. Paddy only shared photos of his face and of him sitting down so he wouldn’t give anything away.
The players assumed he was a “normal” guy, and he made lots of friends in the Circle because of his infectious personality. As soon as he came out about his disability, people flooded the Circle Chat with messages of support and compassion. The program showed other players crying and saying, “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?”
He said that he waited because people usually see his disability first and judge him for it when they meet him. He wanted to see what it would be like for people to get to know him without the crutches. He came out so honestly with people in the group. They automatically assumed he was a real person rather than a catfish, and didn’t think he was doing it for attention like one person thought about Georgina.
What I found interesting was that people reached out to these disabled players with understanding, and shared that they knew someone else with a disability. I have also experienced this reaction after I’ve told people about my multiple sclerosis.
How do you disclose your disability to others? If you had the choice, would you hide your disability or be honest about it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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