The Circle

The Circle

Dave Eggers (Credit: Knopf/Michelle Quint)

Dave Eggers made me quit Twitter

“The Circle” scared me into going off social media — and finally being alone with my thoughts
By Michele Filgate

I get a sort of high when people retweet me. Let’s be honest: We all do. It’s pretty human to want to be liked, and more important, to be paid attention to.

But last month, two things happened that made me realize just how addicted to social media I’d become.

First: Louis C.K. made some comments about smartphones on Conan O’Brien’s show. He talked about not giving them to kids, and he talked about the overall effect of smartphones on society. By having the Internet in our pockets, we’re never truly alone.

“You need to build the ability to be yourself and not be doing something,” he said. “That’s what the phones have taken away.”

Second: I read “The Circle” by Dave Eggers (forthcoming from Random House on Oct. 8) and it scared the crap out of me. So much so that I decided to take a break from social media. I asked one of my best friends to change my passwords, because I didn’t trust myself to resist the siren call of endless chatter and information and likes and retweets and comments.

In Eggers’ novel, a young woman named Mae gets a job at a company called the Circle. The business is clearly based on a combination of Google and Facebook and Twitter. It’s an ideal place to work. Employees go to huge, lavish parties. There are tons of groups dedicated to different interests. The company provides free comfortable dormitories for people who work late and don’t want to leave the campus. But as the book goes on, it becomes very clear that The Circle has dark motives.

Privacy is the enemy. People should be able to see anyone or anything in the world. The company develops a tiny camera that most people won’t notice — and that leads to government officials, and then Mae, deciding to wear the camera everywhere they go. It’s reality TV on steroids. Mae, who works in the Customer Experience department, is expected to send out surveys and follow up with customers until the Circle gets the highest possible score. She’s also required to pay attention to multiple computer screens at a time, including one displaying the Circle’s social networking function. People get offended if she doesn’t respond to their invites, and she’s inundated by a ridiculous number of requests. Her ex-boyfriend (Mercer) and parents are among the few people who start to see the Circle for what it is: a company that’s making people obsessed with being connected to the world all the time, no matter the cost.

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