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#Unfollow - Vertigo's Sinister Commentary on #SocialMedia

There are dark, dark implications about the ways social media can warp people's minds. Most of them are at least somewhat exaggerated, but still contain at least some crumb of truth. It's nothing to get too frightened about, but to many writers it represents a goldmine of ideas for stories and social commentary. Comic writer Rob Williams (2000 AD, X-Men, Star Wars Tales) and artist Mike Dowling (2000 AD, Death Sentence) have teamed up with Vertigo to explore some of those ideas in a new series called Unfollow.

In it, the billionaire creator of a hugely popular social network who decides to split his fortune between 140 of the site's users. I see what you did there. There's a catch though, the money will only split between whichever of the chosen recipients are still alive when said billionaire shuffles off this mortal coil. It's a similar idea to what's known as a tontine, wherein a group of people all register their entitlement to a fortune of some sort, which ends up passing to the last surviving participant. The difference is that in this case, the money just goes to how ever many of them are still alive, making it more of a race against time, and that, by extension, means that it's far more strategically advantageous to kill your competitors.

The other thing to bear in mind about this plot set up is that whilst tontines are typically made in secret (given that they are illegal in many parts of the world), whether as in this case, being that a social network ('Chirper') is central to the story, everybody in the world knows that this is going on. The cast is mostly made up of people who stand to receive a share, obviously. They range from criminals to troubled kids to entrepreneurs, each one tangling with a sudden and acute risk of being killed, as well as whether or not they themselves are willing to kill others to increase their share.

Each character's social media presence plays a vital role in their development. In the first issue, how many followers each one has was one of the first pieces of information to be revealed. Being revealed as one of the 'Chosen 140' has the knock-on effect of turning them into internet celebrities, dramatically increasing their follow cont and placing them under massive global scrutiny, for better or worse. Mostly worse. In some ways this reminds me of Battle Royale, the notion of a killing sport being broadcast and popularised among the massive, but somehow it's even more disturbing, because it's not sanctioned off to some random island, it's happening all around and people are lapping it up

It also comments on the lengths people will go to if there's a promise of a large sum of money, the notion that if you were a millionaire, all your life's problems will just evaporate. People in real life have done some unspeakable things for a lot less than a few mill. Morality and social media have often been discussed within the same purview and this kind of fare places the issue in such a distinct, disturbing context that you can't help but think about the real-world implications. Suffice to say, it's worth picking up.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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#Unfollow - Vertigo's Sinister Commentary on #SocialMedia Reviewed by Unknown on Saturday, October 17, 2015 Rating: 5

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