I have a Facebook account. A Twitter. Two Instagram accounts. A WordPress, a Pinterest, a Snapchat. I dabble in it all; share, like, post, tweet, snap, blog… I’m a typical millennial living in a tech savvy, social media driven, practically transparent world. But what if all those social accounts became one? And what if they became mandatory? And what if they could control the influence on everything that surrounds you, including the government? Enter the Circle.
Meet Mae Holland, customer experience rep for The Circle, age 25. She’s landed the dream job working for a company that is always ahead of the curve, on the scene, and leading in technological developments. She’s thrilled to be there, and her best friend Annie made it happen. Though slightly intimidated at first, Mae is determined to prove that she belongs there, yet her home life and privacy are getting in the way of climbing the social Circle ladder. Her father is living with MS, her mother is fighting with insurance, and her ex-boyfriend Mercer is constant appearance at her home- a reminder that she’s not there now to help her parents.
When all of these issues come to a head, Mae takes off on a rental kayak (a common way for her to de-stress) in the middle of the night, and gets caught. Instead of punishment, she decides to go fully transparent, wearing a video camera and promoting the Circle, and it seems like nothing could be better. She’s becoming a prominent figure within the company, practically famous among her viewers, and actually making Annie jealous of her success. However, her private life no longer exists. Though she feels better about the choices that she makes, knowing that everyone is witnessing what she does, her family has gone into hiding to get away from the outpouring of commentary on their lives, her relationship with Annie is in tatters, and Mercer…
Mae pushes on, practically drinking the Kool Aid with the Wise Men and helping plot the completion of the Circle’s transparency quest. Ignoring warnings from Mercer and the mysterious Kalden about the repercussions of the Circle’s goal, Mae innocently suggests that Circle accounts not only become the official government voting registration center, but that it become a mandatory law that everyone in the country must have a Circle account.
I’m blown away at the prospect of such an organization, and that so many seem to opt for the monopoly of the Circle, yet I can also see that we are probably not that far from such a circumstance. Those that wish to keep their privacy are deemed “hiding something”, yet they are still under surveillance and easily convicted with “evidence”. To me, that’s like blackmail. Privacy is important- it’s why there are privacy laws, after all. The world isn’t a robotic black and white- it’s human shades of gray. And I don’t think I could trust anyone if they were “completely transparent” or under constant surveillance. Who’s to know what they are really thinking? Who’s to know if they are just acting for the cameras? In the book, the reader is allowed to see what the audience members can’t, and that shows the real Mae- however it’s terrifying to note that she completely feels that transparency is for the greater good.
Trying to grasp a complete picture, I also rented the movie based on the book, which stars Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. Many things were skipped over and changed in the movie, and I had intended to write a movie comparison but so much was different that I decided to write the book review. Overall, I thought it was an interesting movie, but I couldn’t stop focusing on Emma’s “introspection” (which honestly came off as her trying to concentrate on her American accent…which was bad… Sorry Emma!), and how slow the movie pace was, and how many things were changed in the movie.
Overall? Completely frustrated with both mediums. There was so much hype with both and the plot was promising to be a good thrill, but the book left me disliking the main character (which I really dislike in general) and the movie fell completely flat. Is it a great look into a brainwashing, totalitarian society? Yes. Should you read it? For the premise of understanding exactly why humans have a right to privacy, yes. But would I recommend the book for a bit of light reading? Absolutely not.