Between the Pages | February

The Circle by Dave Eggers

I love reading books before the movie adaption comes out. Yes, I’m often guilty of saying, “Well, the book was SO much better.” But to be real, I never expect a movie to include every detail of a novel. Sure, I wish that each Harry Potter movie was about 10 hours long with every line and every detail as J.K. Rowling originally wrote, but we all know that isn’t possible. Words haven’t the limitations the screen does; films are pieces of created magic while the power of words is a type of magic humans are born with. Films typically can’t compare to such power. Anyway, I digress. This month we are looking at The Circle written by Dave Eggers and soon to be released to theaters with the incredible Emma Watson, Karen Gillan, Tom Hanks and John Boyega. As a major Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Star Wars fan (wow, I just revealed how geeky I am), I’m excited already!

“You sit at a desk twelve hours a day and you have nothing to show for it except some numbers that won’t exist or be remembered in a week. You’re leaving no evidence you lived. There’s no proof.”

The book centers on Mae Holland (Emma Watson), a young women who finds herself working at the powerful and influential technology company called The Circle, thanks to her friend Annie (Karen Gillan). The Circle is more than a social media company; it’s a way of life. Employees can grocery shop, see a doctor, use the gym, sleep in a dorm and go to parties all without leaving the huge campus. The healthcare is some of the best in the world, and essentially every detail of an employee’s life is thought of and taken care of by the company. Mae begins at the bottom of the chain and slowly becomes noticed as she takes part in an experiment that pushes ethical boundaries.

“You know how you finish a bag of chips and you hate yourself? You know you’ve done nothing good for yourself. That’s the same feeling, and you know it is, after some digital binge. You feel wasted and hollow and diminished.”

Mae begins to realize success at The Circle is contingent upon her performance on social media. While the book doesn’t use our actual social media plateforms like Facebook and Instagram, it refers to The Circle Feed, smiles and zings (types of affirmation) and SeeChange (cameras positioned all over the globe that live stream). Mae buys more and more into the company values, while her relationship with her parents and ex-boyfriend begin to fade as they disagree with her new lifestyle choices.

“ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN.”

Mae begins to embrace complete transparency by wearing a camera and live streaming her life almost 24-7. She finds herself going deeper into the depths of the company and begins to embrace the values that “SECRETS ARE LIES SHARING IS CARING PRIVACY IS THEFT.” The plot thickens as she meets the founders and the transparency experiment spirals into something she can’t control. For the sake of spoilers, we’ll leave the synopsis there, but you’re going to want to read the ending. Trust me.

“Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know- they’d trade it all to know they’ve been seen, and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment.”

The book itself is an easy read, especially for millennials who are already so adept to social media jargon and this type of lifestyle. The book is a cross between modern fiction and a dystopian feel. If I could describe it, I would say The Circle is the bridge that you walk across from the modern world into the dystopian genre. You begin in the modern world and end in something strange.

It challenges the place of social networking in our lives and brings to light the power of knowledge. One of the arguments presented by one of the founders of the company, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), is that when people are monitored, they are much less likely to do the wrong thing. He believes that, “All that happens must be known” for the common good. The book battles within itself about ethics, morality, privacy and human rights, showing characters with diverse opinions and beliefs (much like the world we live in today).

Reading The Circle made me think about my life on social media and the importance of human morality in the 21st century. It caused me to think deeper about the ideals and cultures being created through social networking, both the good and bad. How often do we shape our lives around what looks best on our InstaStory? Go and pick up a copy of the book and decide for yourself what you think.

You can watch the film in theaters staring Emma Watson, Karen Gillan, Tom Hanks and John Boyega on April 28, 2017.
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