The Circle by Dave Eggers has been on my radar for a while, but after reading some mixed reviews I was less interested. A couple of weeks ago, with the movie version being released, my new book club chose it for the May book. I was interested, but cautious.
The Circle features Mae, a new employee at the largest tech company in the world. She is so excited to work in such a supportive, accommodating atmosphere- free gourmet food, fancy offices, a gym onsite, as well as parties and activities every night of the week and plenty of activities all weekend long. It seems like the perfect job and she loves it. As she becomes more deeply entrenched and more visible at the company, some questions are raised for the reader. What Mae thinks of as the perfectly normal progression of social media, what will surely turn the world into an absolute utopia, is quite frightening for the reader. Privacy becomes a thing of the past. "Secrets are lies" is an actual motto for this company and watching it unfold is fascinating and alarming.
Cameras are every where. EVERY WHERE. One of the leaders of the company puts it this way:
"And no matter how many times they try to eliminate the cameras, because they're so small, they'll never know for sure where they are, who's placed them where and when. And the not-knowing will prevent abuses of power."
The company promotes these cameras as a way to end all government corruption around the world. That sounds lovely, but what about the private citizens? Do we really want everything we do recorded?
Also concerning is the dependence on social media. Sure, we all know people who can't seem to step away from Facebook or Instagram, but in The Circle, it becomes all consuming. Mae is required to use her social media as a way to bolster the feelings of everyone who contacts her. A missed party invitation leads to a meeting with her boss where she is reprimanded for not considering the feelings of the party host. Suddenly Mae is spending hours every night going through the thousands of messages in her feeds as though it were her moral responsibility. And then she starts to live for the number of people who follow her, she strives to raise herself in the ranks of social media. It doesn't take much imagination to foresee something very similar in our future.
Most of this book was thrilling and an interesting thought experiment. What would it really be like? Sadly, the last bit of the book seemed to lose steam. It didn't go the way I might have liked, but I don't mind that as much as the way the writing lost energy and then kind of just ended. I would still recommend this book, but I wish it had a little more.