Dave Eggers is out with a new novel in which "the bad guy" is social media, reports Seth Stevenson in Bloomberg Businessweek (10/7/13). It’s not the first time Dave’s written fiction that tackles "socio-political issues" – his previous works have taken on "the justice system, Sudanese refugees and the plight of public school system." With The Circle, he’s written "a pro-privacy, anti-tech manifesto masquerading as a Dan Brown thriller." The premise is that "the scariest thing about the modern world is our compulsion to trade our privacy … for a fleeting feeling of connectedness."
The Circle, basically, is "a fictionalized Google" and the book’s young protagonist, Mae Holland, works there. "The Circle’s first breakthrough was TruYou, a product that combines all your passwords, preferences, and payment systems into a single account — ‘one button for the rest of your life online.’ The company’s also aiming to trace the evolution of our genetic code, to map the farthest regions of the universe, and perhaps, most ominously, to capture every moment of the day, all across the world, on searchable, high-def video."
Mae’s superiors chastise her for her relative lack of social-media presence because it makes it hard for them to track her. She is pressured into "wearing a headset that lets her ‘zing’ about her every quotidian act and thought and ‘smile’ or ‘frown’ at her co-workers’ zings. She’s later forced to wear a camera on a chain around her neck, broadcasting her life 24 hours a day to millions of strangers." Far fetched, perhaps, but maybe enough to raise some questions, and signal that the battle "between privacy and transparency, self-sovereignty and global connectedness – is just getting started."