Thoughts on The Circle by Dave Eggers

imagesHello everyone! It’s been a while, I know, but I’ve been so busy lately that I think I might’ve gone a little crazy. And, speaking of crazy, I’ve decided to make this post about Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle, that came out last year. Since I’m lazy and not feeling too original I’ll just reproduce the blurb from the back of the book here:

“When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime- even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge”

I would like to start out by mentioning that The Circle is one of the most terrifying novels that I’ve read in quite a while. At some points it felt very dystopian – I thought a lot about Orwell’s 1984– but at other times the structure of the fake society felt so close to home that I wondered if it could truly fall into that category. I don’t think the year is ever mentioned but I think the implication is that it’s set in the impending future, which means if you buy into the premise of this novel, you should be quaking with fear and maybe getting a head start finding a home in the deep forest somewhere. However, as clear of a connection as Eggers makes to our own society, I find the story to be largely hyperbolic. Maybe this is Eggers’ intention – to exaggerate his fictional society to get us thinking about our own and the role that technology plays in both. This being said, I would like to mention again that I found this novel to be one of the most terrifying that I have read in a while. And why? Because it demonstrates how a technology can be advertised with a specific purpose (favorable to the masses), but actually has multiple uses (not as discussed or transparent) that may not be as favorable or possibly detrimental to that society. And it was just plain creepy how fast consumers just jumped right on to the Circle bandwagon without even questioning the new product and its impact on their lives just because it appeared to ‘make life easier’.

There were a few things that I found unrealistic but the first that comes to mind is the society itself. There seemed to be no middle ground. With a couple of exceptions (Ty and that one senator being a couple examples) a person in Eggers’ society is either a mindless drone Circler (which I find ironic since these people are supposed to be highly intelligent) or a Mercer-type who gives up technology altogether and tries to drop off the map. I will say though that our view of this world is probably heavily skewed as we rarely get opinions from those outside of the Circle dominion. We only get news and feedback through Circle technology or through Mae who is part of the Circle.

Another thing that made Eggers’ society unlike our own was its insistence on transparency. While I think that the technology that aids in transparency exists, people are more inclined to having the option of deleting or removing undesirable data. But then again people are always saying that once you put something on the internet it’s there forever. It’s like when you try to delete your Facebook account and after like 20 days it says your account has been officially deleted but then if you type in your login information two months later everything is the way you left it. Just because we now have control over what we no longer want people to see doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still exist. And that’s scary.


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