Culture Tip: The Circle
I was racing through Dave Eggers' The Circle over Christmas and enjoying it so much, I just had to tweet something about it. But what? "Am loving the way this book makes social media sound like a totalitarian state #1984" Or "Mister Cool Dave Eggers is acting like a technophobic dinosaur" Or simply "Step away from the screens!"?
To explain. This novel is about a young woman, Mae Holland, who gets a job at a Google-(or is it Facebook?)like company and gets drawn further and further into a technological takeover of her life. What starts out as social validation – friendly emails, customer ratings – become weighted with huge significance, while real relationships with her parents and an old boyfriend are discarded as worthless. The company's reward for her high-level service is total transparency in every part of her life, even her trips to the toilet(audio off). What's more, she's loving it.
How you read this book will probably depend on your view the last 20 years of technological advancement. If everything new is progress then Eggers (author of the memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a bestseller in 2000) is just another Luddite having a whack at things he doesn't appreciate. People were like that about Gutenberg's printing press, remember?
Having started a website, I'm clearly not in the Jurassic period, but I felt the fear of Eggers' exaggerations that take us to a world where "privacy is theft" and "secrets are lies". He's a little heavy-handed at times, but, on the other hand, he's also said that he would make up things for The Circle to create "something a little creepy, and then I'd read about the exact invention, or even something more extreme, the next day."
The Circle - where work never ends and contact is never broken - is not so very different from where some of us already are. It's at the very least food for thought.
Click here to buy The Circle