Constant need for entertainment has blurred the line between fiction and reality

The trend started, as so many do, on TikTok. Amazon customers, watching packages arrive through Ring doorbell devices, asked the people making the deliveries to dance for the camera. The workers—drivers for “Earth’s most customer-centric company” and therefore highly vulnerable to customer ratings—complied. The Ring owners posted the videos. “I said bust a dance move for the camera and he did it!” read one caption, as an anonymous laborer shimmied, listlessly. Another customer wrote her request in chalk on the path leading up to her door. do a dance, the ground ordered, accompanied by a happy face and the word smile. The driver did as instructed. His command performance received more than 1.3 million likes.

Watching that video, I did what I often do when taking in the news these days: I stared in disbelief, briefly wondered about the difference between the dystopian and the merely weird, and went about my business. But I kept thinking about those clips, posted by customers who saw themselves as directors and populated by people who, in the course of doing one job, had been stage-managed into another.