“It’s not nourishing. It’s like snack food. You know how they engineer this food? They scientifcally determine precisely how much salt and fat they need to include to keep you eating. You’re not hungry, you don’t need the food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating these empty calories. This is what you’re pushing. Same thing. Endless empty calories, but the ditital-social equivalent. And you calibrate it so it’s equally addictive.” – Mercer, “The Circle”
There is no questioning the fact that social media has transformed our world. What is up for debate is whether our world is better or worse given the change. According to The Circle, a fictional bestseller by Dave Eggers, social media has the potential to rob us of all that we hold dear if allowed to go unchecked.
The Circle follows the story of Mae, a talented young college graduate who lands her dream job at the largest social media corporation in the world. At first Mae is dazzled by the advanced technology, the feeling of connection to millions of other people in the world, and the ability to generate worldwide change with nothing more than a few keystrokes. Before long, however, things begin to take a darker turn. Soon the corporation is printing slogans like “PRIVACY IS THEFT,” and making those who are audacious enough to keep certain moments to themselves out to be dangerous criminals. Before long, the characters find themselves living in a world where they must allow every moment of their lives to be completely transparent and open for viewing by the public eye…or else.
While this may sound crazy, while reading the book it all feels very real, and absolutely possible. As young Mae finds herself straining to keep up with an endless flow of data – numbers regarding her health, numbers of followers, numbers of comments, numbers of messages awaiting her response – most modern readers will find themselves staring in a mirror. Social media is portrayed as something like a beautiful shark – an entity that mesmerizes the public with its countless benefits, but is tinged with a raw danger that is very real.
Eggers creates a cast of characters who are both believable and likeable as young, tech-savvy consumers driven by the desire to use their skills to generate positive change. His writing style is modern and sleek, but packs quite a punch. The book contains no chapter divisions, but reads continuously – very much like an endless social media news feed. The sheer mass of text readers are trying to digest at any given point may leave them feeling exhausted and emotionally spent – which is, in itself, a commentary on the effects of social media!
My one beef with this novel was the use of strong language and a few suggestive themes throughout the course of the book. These additions were completely unnecessary, and actually come off as being quite offensive and out of place. For this reason, this book is not recommended for younger readers – not even older teens.
The book will give you and your friends plenty to discuss, however. Its commentary on social media and the future of society as we know it is extremely thought-provoking, and a little terrifying. Read this one, and it is sure to haunt your thoughts.
Today’s post is part of the A-to-Z Challenge, where participants commit to posting one article for each day during the month of April – one for every letter of the alphabet.
Check back here at “The Artistic Christian” for a daily slice of art (art reviews, practical tips, and motivation for artists), all steeped in a rich Christian worldview.