The moment I finished reading The Circle by Dave Eggers I felt extremely annoyed by the characters and the way it was written. But despite those facts I would still highly recommend reading it. From everyday consumers to online professionals this book gives a great view of what technology and online visibility could lead to.
Author: Dave Eggers
Release: October 2013
Mae Holland is an ambitious college graduate who lands a job at ‘The Circle’, a powerful and groundbreaking tech company that has combined the functions of Apple, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Microsoft and Twitter into a unified corporation. It links user’s personal emails, social media, banking and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in only one online identity: the ‘TruYou’.
The Circle is led by the Three Wise men: Eamon Bailey, Tom Stenton and Ty Gospodinov. With their motto’s like “All that happens must be known” and camera’s planted all over the world they strive to create a world in which technology and human rights are fused into an ideal vision of perfect democracy, transparency and knowledge. A world in which private and public circles are united, and government operations are perfected.
Whereas normal companies frown upon using social media websites during work hours, Mae gets into trouble in her first weeks of working at The Circle: all for not paying attention to her social media accounts during work hours.
“That is an act of community. An act of reaching out”
As the book progresses The Circle launches new projects, from crime surveillances cameras and child-tracking software. Mae gets herself noticed by both working very hard and putting more effort into her social accounts than anybody in the company and she quickly works herself up on the hierarchal ladder of the company. She becomes the face of the company, devising some of their key slogans: “Secrets are lies. Sharing is caring. Privacy is theft.”
She accumulates millions of followers whose opinions she tracks from a watch-like screen on her wrist (sounds familiar?). Closing the Circle with complete transparency is the companies’ goal and it will do almost everything to make that happen.
The first thing I want you to know about the book is that you do not read it for the great characters. Or that it is written so well. Even though it is meant as a ‘science fiction thriller’, it is anything but that. Because of the way that it is written, the circle lacks anything that looks like tension that you might find in a thriller. From the beginning to the end every mystery is obvious.
The main character Mae is very one-dimensional and I do not believe that there is one person in the world who is so naïve (wait did I say naïve, I meant ignorant) to what is happening around her. Also the compulsory love stories do not add anything to the story. No you read this book for the story behind it and the fact that it could be so frightening true.
The way you will react to ‘The Circle’ will without a doubt depend on your own relationship to technology. Over the past years the line between transparency and surveillance has blurred tremendously: “All that happens must be known”. Since Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, the way we look at our only privacy has changed and the average social media user has become more aware of what companies and even governments can do with our personal data.
One of the trends in marketing in 2014 was the fact that consumer data is becoming increasingly more important for companies to target its customers. But with consumers being more aware than ever of what is happening with their data, where lays the line? When are organizations invading people’s privacy in order to generate more sales?
I believe that what people are sharing on Social Media is their own responsibility. But what happens to the information you do not willingly put out there? I know that companies like Google and Facebook can see exactly what I do online and that they sell that information to other companies, but what about the people who are not as technologically savvy? They have absolutely no idea what is happening and scatter all their personal data around like its confetti.
The good thing we can get out of a book like the circle is the fact that it makes us think about the worldaround us. For both consumers and companies this is a great example of what could lie ahead of us if we do not always take a good look at ourselves and take a moment to think about what is the right direction to go on.
Like I said, the book itself is not too great. It’s the idea behind it that makes it worth the read.