Wednesday, March 1, 2017

THE CIRCLE by Dave Eggers

The Circle is a California tech company that is taking the world by storm, and Mae wants to work there.  She lands a job in the Customer Experience department, thanks to a plug from her college roommate Annie, who is an up-and-comer there.  Mae is unbelievably efficient, achieving all of the company’s goals for social media interaction and customer satisfaction.  A mistake that Mae fears will cost her her job actually segues into an opportunity for heightened visibility at the company.  One of the Circle’s goals is for everyone on the planet, starting with politicians, to become totally transparent, i.e., wearing a camera so that everything they do is viewable by everyone else.  Privacy and classified information are no longer valued, except by a few, such as Mae’s parents and ex-boyfriend, whose email addresses Mae shares with the world, much to their chagrin.  Mae drinks the Kool-Aid to the point that she lives at the company and basically has only her on-again, off-again boyfriend Francis and Annie for friends.  But who needs friends when you have millions of people watching your every move?  Eggers has stretched the influence of social media here to its maximum, giving us a totalitarian world of information overload.  It is not appealing, but the reader can understand how Mae gets so caught up in a world that seems, on the surface, like a utopia—no more crime, no more disease epidemics, full voter participation.  She doesn’t miss what she’s lost because she can’t identify it.  This Orwellian story is also reminiscent of the TV show Max Headroom, in which the television was the all-powerful tracker of everyone’s activities.  Let’s hope we don’t ever “complete the circle.”

No comments: