Take the most advanced and amazing social media networks and emerging technology and extrapolate them out 10 or 20 years. Add a heavy dose of paranoia. Mix well. Oh hey, you’ve got The Circle by Dave Eggers.
The story starts innocuously enough, when Mae Holland is hired to work at the most popular internet company, The Circle (think Google, if Google were also Twitter, Apple, Facebook and any small brilliant internet start-up that doesn’t exist yet). And then comes the paranoia.
The near-future described becomes increasingly unrecognizable and improbable, filled with big brother-esque cameras, washed-out personalities, a mysterious man and big, obvious, metaphors.
Why is this on our bookshelf?
When a book speculates on the repercussions of widespread social media adoption in an era where social media is growing by leaps and bounds, it is going to catch people’s attention.
The setting is quite geeky, even the characters could be, but once the book jumps the shark (literally, there is a long-running shark tank metaphor), it ceases being geeky and enters the realm of paranoid technophobia.
Some people compare The Circle to 1984, but I think that’s giving it too much credit, to be honest. For the record, I have loved 1984 ever since I first read it at age 14.
Regardless of my feelings, this is one of the first novels I’ve read that takes social media seriously. A little too seriously, perhaps, but if I re-read this in 20 years, I could be quite nostalgic.
Rating (2 stars)
As a disclaimer, I should probably mention that my job is social media. I’m a social media and online content specialist currently employed as a client social media coordinator.
I’m sure this book resonates with some people’s deep fears about social media and privacy. I’m sure some people will use it as an warning for what could be. I’m also sure that person isn’t me.
The book started out as a story, changed to a confusing story-like narrative and ended with WTF?
The future-tech, which sounded awesome, was more like current-tech and breakdown of society, mass anarchy, whatever, happened way too quickly. Besides, a “social media dystopia” just sounds laughable to me. Beware of the cute cat pictures!
Why not only a single star then? I’ll admit it, I couldn’t put the book down. It was a gripping read, and I can even say I was enjoying at least the very beginning. Unfortunately it was also unsatisfying.
As a side note, I tried to connect with the author on Twitter, but he doesn’t appear to have an account.
Read this book:
On an e-reader, if you enjoy the irony of this idea.
Don't Read this book:
If you are already concerned about privacy controls. Seriously. You’ll just be freaked out.
Once you're done, do this:
Flaunt your lack of social media fear and tweet something.