Those who know me well know I have a pretty healthy paranoia about technology and privacy. And when I say healthy, I mean I’m convinced Facebook wants to steal all my personal identifying information and use it to strangle puppies. That’s why I deactivated my account a year ago. It had nothing to do with how much time I wasted on it. *Cough.*
ANYWAY. Because I like to feed the worst parts of my personality, I picked up The Circle by Dave Eggers. In it, a young woman gets a job at Circle, a tech company that started by making it easy for everyone to create an online “TruYou” profile. With it, you can make payments, review your favorite products, even vote, and it’s all so friendly because your TruYou is tied to your social security number. When people use their real names, they don’t troll, apparently. (Except we all no there are people on this planet with no shame who would TOTALLY still troll and be really proud of it.) The young woman, who was written so thinly I can’t even remember her name except it starts with an M, quickly and accidentally sets into motion a plan to “complete” the Circle, which involves her sleeping with a lot of people, wearing a camera around her neck at all hours, and tweeting…I mean “zinging” until 3 in the morning. Things rapidly move toward a totalitarian state and people die and there are drones involved.
The first night I started reading it, I had a nightmare about The Circle recording me. The second night I woke up with my own voice screaming in my head, “CHOICE! Choice is what you lose when everyone’s watching!”
(You’re thinking of a word, and that word is tranquilizer.)
It’s not the writing that will make you tense–the writing is only so-so–it’s how much of the technology and the arguments for it you’ll recognize in today’s world. Like 24/7 ankle monitors for infants. Or small cameras ostensibly for monitoring the weather but that could monitor whatever you want. And entire offices being asked to wear stress monitors while at work (scroll down, it happened at LinkedIn). Or asking an app to decide whether or not you belong. WHAT.
This is the part where I mention I just joined Instagram. Run for your lives!