Monday, June 16, 2014
Book Report: The Circle
In order to do that, the Wise Men and the members of The Circle believe that no experience should be private, no information should be kept to yourself, and all should be transparent. Politicians are encouraged to wear cameras on their necks to show constituents that they aren't participating in shady deal-making behind closed doors. Tiny cameras have been hidden in public places all over the world, allowing people to experience anything and know everything — say, what the surfing conditions are like at that exact moment on any beach in the world — and also have the side effect of making crime basically non-existent. When your every move could be recorded, it makes it harder to do illegal or unethical things under the table.
Mae wants to grow at The Circle, and believes — truly, deeply believes — in everything The Circle stands for. When The Circle tells her she needs to be improving her social media interactions as a part of her job, she makes it her goal to be one of the best in the company at it. She finds ways to incorporate The Circle's social media and products into the government and political world, making it a requirement for everyone to have a Circle account in order to do things like make purchases or vote. For those who want to live off the grid, The Circle makes it nearly impossible, because the organization believes that off-the-grid people are "stealing" experiences from others by not sharing them.
Eventually, Mae is convinced that the best thing she can do for the organization is to become "transparent" herself — to share EVERY experience she has by wearing a video camera around her neck that records and stores her every move and every conversation.
(I've actually heard of someone doing this in real life as a type of social experiment. How frightening is that?)
You can basically see through the whole novel how what started out as an interesting, innovative idea devolves into 1984, Big-Brother-style surveillance in which no one has any privacy and everyone is brainwashed to believe this is for the good of the people.
It was a creepy novel, but fascinating. One of my big problems with dystopian novels is that, many times, I have a hard time seeing how "we" as a society came to the "solution" posed in the story (see also: Divergent, The Handmaid's Tale). But I could totally see how the events that occur in The Circle could happen, and that is terrifying.
My only complaint is that I really hated Mae as a character. She made such terrible life decisions and lacked self-awareness in such a major way that it was distracting. It made me wonder … since the advent of social media, have our collective social skills devolved THAT much, that someone of a presumably average- to above-average intelligence can no longer pick up on basic social cues? That seems unlikely to me, and therefore frustrated me.
Even with deductions for Mae's idiocy, I'll still give it an A+.
Have you read The Circle? Do you ever worry about the future of technology? How do you think social media will continue to affect us in the future?