I just finished Dave Egger’s The Circle, and yes, somehow, someway, it’s gotten me to think very much about the whole online communication thing and even my online communications. It’s an interesting effect, it makes everything strange, it makes everything feel different….I can’t explain it other than that. As far as books go, it’s a very engrossing read, something that basically overtakes your thoughts and mind, like it terminates and stays resident. Yes, yes, some of the arguments are far from subtle. Yes, yes, the prose isn’t quite the OMG I LOVE IT prose of Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius or You Shall Know Our Velocity. And it’s not the spare minimalist prose of Hologram for the King. It’s basically transparent prose, except, you know, when it’s not. It has moments of bombastic poetry which works well within the frame, and when it happens it doesn’t jar the reader out of the work, but instead delves us deeper inside of it, becoming more and more engrossing.
Sure, some say it’s an update on 1984, and I can see that. But 1984 was…not this. It’s an unfair comparison and only scrapes at the surface level. And besides, this book is mammoth compared to 1984. It’s big and bully of a book.
Anyway, reading it…there are moments where he criticizes the way we act online, and it’s interesting…sometimes it’s a spoof. Sometimes it’s a laugh. Othertimes it’s a filthy mirror and we walk away embarrassed thinking oh god oh no oh I do that, I do that, I do. Am I really like that? Am I really that needy, that egotistical? It’s made me think about my online correspondence with people. And I do know what that is like…how people even act like that to me…me acting like that to others…
If anything, the book kind of gets you to think about how we are online. Not just in a privacy setting, but how this online culture exists, what it is becoming, who we are, etc, etc. And yes, irony here, yes, here it is, I’m typing up this blogpost. Like like like, don’t like, like. Facebook thumb’s up retweet whatever. Maybe we need a thumb’s down around here…four star five stars, rate this, give me data, give me more data, give me all the data.
But yeah, there is something missing here, isn’t there? And the Circle also has a very Scientology bent to it. Everyone going clear. Closing the circle. Go clear. It’s not subtle, it’s not, but then again, maybe we need a club to our skull every once in awhile?
I don’t think he’s predicting anything here. I don’t think that’s the purpose. It’s not a warning shot to get us all to go into bunkers with tinfoil hats on…he even parodies that in some parts, and you have to think about it. And yes, the main character, she’s not lovable at all, is she? No, not with the things she does. Yet you get inside her head and you can’t get out, because it’s just so engrossing, you know? Everything just kind of leads up to this and you can’t stop you can’t stop watching it unfold.
I think he’s trying to show us the things we forgot. We don’t talk about the nature of evil as much these days. WWII brought all this to the forefront (the horror the horror) and Vietnam and etc, etc. But these days…we have reverted to them thar are bad guys, we har are good guys, etc, etc, black and white and us good guys can’t do bad. But for awhile, before we forgot all of this, we tried to explore how good people could get wrapped up and doing all this bad stuff.
There is even a virtual lynch mob at one point, like a flash mob with drones that harass someone into killing themselves. So anyway, yes. Here I am, typing this. And thinking every time I log onto facebook and like some shit or not, or tweet it or not or whatever, I pause. Because I’m looking at it now differently. I think that’s his point. The parody of it is where it strikes home. And he captures that internet fatigue so well. That overcoming deluge of call and response. And I think…yes. This is the problem where it lies. Especially with Facebook activism. Do we really think if we get a thousand likes against genocide it will change anything? It’s empty calories for change, real change.
And yes yes this is a possible future, all that. But that’s not the scary part. The scary part is how well he represents out current life, our current actions, our current social media interactions. That’s where the horror, the horror comes from. Not from the future tense of what will be but that strange distorted mirrors we’ve created for ourselves. The tools we use to put up shells around our own existence.