Mae has just been employed by The Circle, a social media company that operates out of a sprawling campus with state of the art everything, including on tap entertainment, luxurious dorms where you can sleep overnight, healthy free meals, complete health insurance, and is bulging at the seams with passionate ultra friendly and helpful co-workers.
Life can’t possibly get any better, although it does take a bit of adjusting to. Mae it turns out isn’t as committed to social media as The Circle would like. Luckily once she boosts all her ‘likes’ and “smiles’ and comments, alongside posting all the photos of her daily life her status in the company climbs.
The Circle is a company committed to social justice, to transparency, to ending violence and every form of corruption. Workers are encouraged to sign online petitions calling for the end of child abuse, to develop GPS devices that can be implanted in children to stop all abductions, and to end political corruption by encouraging politicians to wear cameras that record every aspect of their lives. There is no room for corruption and shady deals when the camera records it all – and of course, those who refuse to wear the camera are obviously up to no good!
Gradually Mae becomes more and more absorbed into The Circle community. Why keep up an apartment when you can stay on the campus for free? Outside friends and interests slowly dissipate. The Circle provides concerts by famous musicians, talks and activities to satisfy every possible interest and Mae, being grateful for such amenities and the company focus of a ‘work life’ balance, repays them by working into the night (another good reason to make good use of the dorms) and constantly increasing her output.
What makes this book so good is that as a reader you can be swept away by the wonderment of it all, the betterment of society seems genuine and it is completely feasible as to how Mae could be in the thrall of such endeavours. Gradually though a sense of horror begins to develop, not from Mae, she loves it all, but as a reader you want to yell – “get out while you can!”
As an interesting aside, a recently purchased title: Hacking Happiness: Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking It Can Change the World by John Havens suggests there is…
an alternative to this digital dystopia. Emerging technologies will help us reclaim this valuable data for ourselves, so we can directly profit from the insights linked to our quantified selves. At the same time, sensors in smartphones and wearable devices will help us track our emotions to improve our well-being based on the science of positive psychology. Havens proposes that these trends will lead to new economic policies that redefine the meaning of “wealth,” allowing governments to create policy focused on purpose rather than productivity.
Perhaps Eggers’ book is not such a work of fiction after all?