I typically don't do book reviews....but I wanted to share a book I recently read. I have not been compensated for this post, and all opinions are completely my own.
The Circle, by Dave Eggers, is a look at how far technology and social media have infiltrated our lives. Although the fictitious company and related products are similar to real-life items, it takes the ideas that our society already embraces and takes it to the Nth degree.
The book follows Mae, a recent college graduate (say...2 years), who lands an entry level job at The Circle, a technologically advanced company, similar to Google. The Circle has integrated several on-line features and thus has allowed users one interface to go through for many of their needs...a virtual one-stop shopping for anything they need or want. Their 10,000+ employees are currently working on other products to further the user's ability to gain even more knowledge. The main idea behind their products is to allow anyone to gain information about anything at anytime. If a little information is good....more must be better.
The company campus is a variable Utopia for their employees. From fine dining to dorms to constant entertainment, there is very little reason for employees to leave. In fact, participation in on-campus life is practically mandatory. Employees are ranked on their participation. The Circle has developed technology that cross references any information from your profile with thousands of other items and allows others to see this information. One picture from one vacation could lead to hundreds of possible groups or events.
Mae is overwhelmed at first and stumbles as she learns what is expected of her. She has difficulty integrating into campus and finds herself inadvertently offending others. Not wanting to lose her job, she decides to fully commit herself to The Circle. This decision becomes life changing. Her need for acceptance takes over and she finds herself spending hours upon hours using social media in order to prove her commitment to The Circle. In the process, she slowly alienates her family, who do not support The Circle's vast and overwhelming presence.
The Circle's end game is complete transparency in every facet off life. The idea that anything that is kept private contributes to lies and secrets, which drives the The Circle towards a monopoly that would control all the flow of information that is in the world. The government supports this, and even participates. From millions of small cameras, so that Big Brother is watching at all times, to the idea that participation in The Circle products should be mandatory, eventually every person everywhere would be connected and know everything about everyone at anytime.
While fictitious, this book lends itself to many current ideas. If you are reading this, you are using social media in one form or another, and potentially spending TOO much time using it. Additionally, we may fill out surveys, sign up for products, and give our personal information freely under the guise that it is improving our lives. Even if the company says that this information is kept private....we have all wondered at one point or another how we got signed up for some other newsletter or received something in the mail that is tangent to something else.
This book looks at the ramifications of allowing social media full access to our lives....to our medical history.....to our genealogy....to our likes and dislikes.....to our political system.....to our currency. Is this a good thing, or should their be a separation of "church and state?"
The main character, Mae, is not the strongest female character that I have ever read, but her youth and need for acceptance makes it plausible that she would blindly follow the Rabbit down the hole to Wonderland. She doesn't have enough life experience to challenge what is being told to her. She drinks the Kool-Aid with gusto.
While this is not the best book I have ever written, it does give you an opportunity to examine your own thoughts and ideals as technology advances and we become "one" with our screens. If you use any social media, it is worth a read.