I like to believe I literally live in the digital world. Not ashamed of my 2 hour Reel scroll. Definitely not ashamed of my nighttime ritual of streaming Netflix for 6 hours. So, when Netflix dropped the teaser for their latest reality show, Social Currency, I was so pumped. My two favorite worlds were colliding. ‘Social Currency’ takes eight influencers – Rowhi Rai, Mridul Madhok, Sakshi Chopra, Vagmita Singh, Ruhi Singh, Aakash Mehta, Bhavin Bhanushali, and Parth Samthaan – and drops them in a secluded Goa villa without their smartphones. With a tempting cash prize of Rs. 50 lakh at stake, these content creators must tackle daily challenges to survive and win the big moolah.
With an exciting premise that promises a voyeuristic view of a star’s life without their virtual spotlight, this show delivered what the logline promised. If you’re a Netflix connoisseur like me, so much of the series felt like India’s answer to Netflix’s The Circle. Maybe even some modern Roadies mixed with Bigg Boss. The creative challenges to create live content were fresh, and added the ‘social media’ element to the offline show. The participating and the guest creators were relevant, added great entertainment (Sunny Leone was a 10/10 cutie, yes) and Vagmita’s Reels kept my interest in the show afloat. So, you must be thinking – where did it go wrong?
Why was it a survival show?
Halfway through the show, we reach a very awkward point as its audience. From a show that promised influencers doing influencer things™ to win money, it lost the plot. Participants were not given access to any virtual money, food, beds or the house that Netflix so beautifully curated. The creators looked exhausted, carried their dark circles like trophies, and complained about the show. I don’t blame them. If I don’t eat one meal, I get cranky. Creators aren’t superheroes. They didn’t sign up for a survival show. They signed up to compete in a competition to decide the most influential influencer. Now, you tell me – how does survival for the very basics be the judge of that? Is it a healthy environment for them to create? Does it encourage creative risks, improve content quality, or build collaborations? If the answer is no, then why was Social Currency a survival show?
To a great degree, I believe the show could have existed without ‘influencers’. Skulls and Roses on Amazon Prime Video is a prime example of a reality show that took survival to the extreme, and put their ‘normal’ contestants in extreme situations that compromised on their basic needs. Khatron Ke Khiladi continues to surprise its viewers on how far they can stretch their own shock value. Bigg Boss gets worse and worse with every season. But even Bigg Boss has Salman Khan. He corrects poor behavior, reinforces the rules, and ensures no contestant is emotionally or physically hurt during the process. In Social Currency, the ‘Admin’ – Salman Khan’s counterpart in the show – remained oblivious to the house’s dynamics and events, sounding pre-recorded, cookie-cutter, almost dismissive to the creators’ experience.
Sakshi Chopra deserved better, Netflix!
In a not-so-shocking turn of events, Sakshi Chopra, one of the participating creators and great-granddaughter of filmmaker Ramanand Sagar, called out the makers of “Social Currency” for their unprofessionalism. Taking to her Instagram account, this firecracker didn’t hold back as she spilt the tea on her experience. It seems the promise of fame and fortune did come with a side of deceit and discomfort. According to Sakshi, the show’s producers lured her in with the promise of one phone call a day to her family, only to leave her high and dry once the ink hit the contract. And that’s not all, folks. She expressed that the contestants were not provided with basic necessities like food during the show, even behind the cameras.
But the real kicker was the behavior of some of her co-contestants. One particular creator, Mridul, openly made remarks about Sakshi’s physical attributes. And as if that wasn’t enough, the producers decided to keep him in the same house as Sakshi, with no on-screen intervention, no conflict resolution, nothing. Through it all, Sakshi stood her ground, demanding her voice be heard and her rights be respected. Her social media posts are quite heart-wrenching, especially knowing that her beloved dog, Sam, passed away during this horrible time. Our condolences, Sakshi. Stay strong and continue to slay the online world.
Where was the “social” in social currency?
Now, let’s discuss the challenges. If you had high hopes for exciting “content creation” tasks that would keep the contestants on their toes and give the audience an insight into the work that goes behind it, well, prepare to be disappointed.
Social Currency seems to have borrowed a page from the book of other reality shows we’ve seen, presenting us with familiar, if not identical, challenges. While the show did include a few fresh ‘social media’ challenges, it did not provide the creators with ample turnaround time to actually deliver on good content. When the survival mode kicked in, creators seemed to have lost touch with their own creative abilities, and the tasks were reduced to creating first-thought, easy-to-execute videos. During the offline tasks, they started selling their personal items – earrings, shoes, and watches – to eat one simple meal. They started selling selfies to their fans, in order to earn virtual money so they can sleep in a bed. How are these tasks proof of their social clout?
Verdict: Stream it, but be aware this is not what creators do for a living
In Social Currency, we witness a diverse mix of influencers navigate a world without their digital platforms, showcasing moments of vulnerability and personal growth. Unfortunately, the challenges they encountered did not shed light on the often overlooked efforts of content creation. The show couldn’t delve deep enough into the realities and struggles faced by Indian content creators, so while it offers a small glimpse into their lives, it fails to provide a comprehensive representation. But considering the chance to see Parth Samthaan dancing shirtless, Social Currency might be worth a stream.