I love technology. My father’s career as a software engineer has ensured that I’ve been surrounded by computers my whole life–I was playing Disney computer games at age 3. Yet in this increasingly connected world, it is crucial to quiet the constant chatter of these glowing screens, at least for a little while. I need not expound on the various studies popping up about the psychological effects of Facebook, or the emergence of a more light-hearted phenomenon FOMO (fear of missing out), but it’s at least comforting to know our society has become conscious of the danger in our technological obsession.
A new book by Dave Eggers treats the future of these realities. I tore through The Circle, a haunting dystopian prophesy, in much the same way one peeks from behind a pillow at a psychological thriller. Though a page-turner, it is one with substance. Eggers’ novel challenges our society’s notions of privacy and connection in the modern world, depicting a catastrophic scenario in which society goes too far.
As a reader, the story was a bit frustrating at times, inviting a “this would never happen” mentality. Why would any politician agree to strap a camera to themselves at all times? The crippling implications of complete transparency and surveillance are immediately evident to any reader with an ounce of foresight. Yet the frightening part isn’t a jarring story about a fictional corporation eerily like Google monopolizing the world’s information. It is the proximity to our own culture, a world that values “likes” and comments and uploads as a form of connection. The justifications uttered by the characters in regard to invasive new trends are, at times, not too unlike some of our own. While the story is safely untrue, Eggers models the foundation for this snowball effect right from our society at large.
Beyond its purpose as an entertaining summer read, The Circle, which borders on an outright satire of our social media addiction, will make you think. You will become increasingly aware of the detrimental implications behind a mundane Facebook status or the anxiety felt at a text left unanswered. This kind of awareness isn’t negative and it’s the same kind of awareness being promoted in many different ways today. In short, the moral is simple: pick up the phone, call a friend, and go have coffee.