I am still haunted by this story. I was drawn in and read it cover to cover in just a few sittings. That’s about me, rather than a comment on how good the book is. But the fact that I am still haunted by the story, points to some of the elements that resonated with me.
The book has a sense of Nineteen Eighty Four about it. I would love to go back and re-read 1984. I wasn’t ‘haunted’ as a teenager, but would I be now? Or would I have been haunted had I read 1984 in the era within which it was written? Big Brother, in The Circle is the rest of the world as we put more and more of our life on social media.
I think Dave Eggers did a fantastic job of getting us to recognise the new behaviours that social media has created and then exaggerating them to excess. Would we lose sight of ourselves in this way? I think not, we are already trying to put a new etiquette around the this new technology – but his is a cautionary tale.
I loved the fun happy campus at the Circle where Mae Holland, the book’s protagonist works. The social pressure to spend ever more time on campus and make it her entire life rather than just a job. The point scores and “likes” that indicate she is doing a good job and again, encourage her to let work take over her life- she is a competitive soul so it doesn’t take long for her to have her own target about how many communications she can speed through and how to inch her score up. Hilariously, she starts work with 3 screens to keep an eye on and by the end of the book she has about 8.
But the thing that has jarred for me is the focus on trying to be authentic, trying to solicit genuine feedback and responses when you might not know the person at the other end of the message – you’re interacting with a screen for goodness sake. For weeks after reading this book I’ve watched myself consciously manage my emails and mass communications and fret about the tone I’ve chosen for maximum engagement. aaaargh, I’m turning into the future.
I won’t spoil the story. Fair dues to Eggers for describing a piece of this social media world in a way that has caused me frequent reflection. A recommended read for anyone who is thoughtful about what Web 2.0 really means for our future.