Monday, January 12, 2015

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Not only is The Circle a good read, it is also a cautionary tale. Eggers tells a story that could easily reflect a possible online future. (A friend of mine said..."possible? or inevitable?")

As the story opens, Mae Holland is just starting her job at The Circle, a company that has created a unified online community. The Circle isn't an online community, it is THE online community. Everyone has one online identity. There is no more identity theft. No one has to remember dozens of passwords for different websites. Online, everyone is who they truly are.

As Mae learns more about her job at The Circle, she is encouraged to become more and more involved in The Circle community. She is expected to attend events and "zing" about them. She is expected to share her opinions about products. She is expected to wear a bracelet that tracks her physical activities. She is expected to develop an extensive online network. Mae is drawn in, and so are we.

How far can this go? As it happens, pretty far. In the end though, the question for me wasn't how far can this go, but how far should this go? How far do we want it to go?

I think there are books that come along that are important to read. Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin is one, as she writes about how invasive the internet is now*.

The Circle is another. While fiction (Dragnet Nation is non-fiction), The Circle's portrayal of what online community could look like is insightful and (perhaps) prescient enough to give pause. Big pause. Both books have made me reevaluate my own online presence in a big way.

*Read my review of Dragnet Nation here:

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