David Egger’s The Circle is a fast paced and addictive read, it’s a blunt satire of the pervasiveness of social networking and people’s need to share.
The Circle is an internet company that has replaced Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Justin.tv and more. As such it knows a lot about a lot of people. The novel is about Mae Holland, as she starts work at The Circle’s google-esque campus in the customer experience department. Mae quickly realises what is expected of her as a Circler - sharing everything and feels obligated to comply, culminating in lifestreaming her waking life. During the interview where she announces this, she says, and the company is quick to echo
SECRETS ARE LIES SHARING IS CARING PRIVACY IS THEFT
The Circle’s ultimate goal is total transparency to improve the world - if everyone knows that they may be being watched and their behaviour publicly discussed. This is very relevant to one of the current hot internet issues - the requirement for YouTube commentators (notoriously rude and useless) to be linked to their google+ profile - which requires a real name.
Mae’s journey from an everyday person, to one of the elite “T2K” circlers is accompanied with her love interests - her puppy-dog colleague, who like every good Circler believes in sharing everything, her ex-boyfriend who is a sceptic (and given his monologues, I think he is Egger’s voice) and her shadowy, mysterious colleague Kalden and with her parents changing attitudes towards Mae and her job.
The novel is black and white with it’s arguments against social networking, the only grey statement I can remember, is one that I agree with in general
my problem with paper is that all communication dies with it
I use facebook (due to network effects), twitter and Google+, I let Google track where I am so they can tell me about travel times etc, I scrobble my music to last.fm so I can get suggestions from my friends and strangers, I post on various forums, not always using a pseudonym. I’m aware each time that I’m giving away some privacy, each time the trade off always seems worthwhile. Heavy-handed and satirical the novel may be, but I think it’s totally correct about how things are changing. There is no cabal, it is happening incrementally. Someone comes up with an idea that will improve your life if you share this little thing with the company, someone else comes up with something else, a company decide to make some of the data you share with them slightly more visible.
The book is not all about bludgeoning the reader about the internet, there is some levity, mainly poking fun at the earnestness of the inhabitants of the Circle campus.
There’s something ironic about me having rated this book on amazon, tweeted and facebooked about having read it and now blogging about it.