As you may have noticed in my weekly round ups, I read a lot of books. I work in books all day, so don’t really want this to become a book blog (although I suppose they do fall into the ‘wiser’ category in my ‘healthier, wealthier, wiser’ goal), but every now and again, there are books that you just want to tell everyone about and tell everyone to read. The Circle by Dave Eggers is one of those.
I’m (clearly) not someone who shuns social media or wants to go back to a world before mobile phones. I live my life in a pretty open way. I am (actively) on quite a lot of social media spaces. I blog. I blog in two places, actually. I like when someone ‘likes’ something I’ve done online. I love that I can connect with my childhood friends, who are spread all over the world, from Hong Kong to Denver to Kazakhstan. And I love that I’ve made a group of real world friends purely from interactions we’ve had on social media. I also have a masters in New Media, Information and Society, and work in digital marketing. So, I guess you could say I am a bit fan of the internet.
But even though my life might appear like an open book to some, there are huge amounts of stuff that I don’t post about. Reams and reams of things that I read or talk about or see that aren’t making it on to any feed. I don’t want everyone (and more importantly, every company) to know everything about me. In this book, The Circle (basically Google), starts to insinuate itself into every single aspect of life, to the point where not being ‘transparent’ (sharing your entire life via live video stream) suggests that you have something to hide and are therefore dangerous.
The Circle easily gets people to give up their privacy by promising a better world and touting democracy, but ends up creating quite a terrifying totalitarian regime. It’s so closely based on our social media and life tracking world (hello, my fitbit!) – gradually we are opening ourselves up more and more – the world presented by Eggers feels like something that is actually already happening. This isn’t the most original idea ever – lots of people have talked about how these companies are eroding our privacy – but it’s incredibly well written, very readable and hits quite close to the bone.
It made me think again about how important it is to switch off and to be present, rather than continually thinking about what’s happening online or what messages you might be missing. It also really made me think about how much I do send out into the world. Not everything that happens must be known. Privacy is not stealing. I still love social media, for all the reasons I stated above, but maybe I’ll just be a little bit more conscious of the photos of myself I upload…
Anyway. That’s a bit of a longer post than I expected to write, but this book just really resonated with me. It’s very, very creepy, particularly if you work in digital marketing, or spend a lot of time online. Well worth reading.
Have you read The Circle yet? Please tell me what you thought! I really want to find someone who’s read it so that I can talk to them about it…