The Circle

I had avoided social media for seventeen and a half years. I lied. I had avoided social media for fourteen years, maybe. In reality, have I ever avoided it? In today’s society technology has been developing at a pace that is completely unfathomable. As our lives tend to orbit around social media, living through narration in the novel, The Circle, was the perfect parallel to explain our modern culture and our interaction with online tools.

My first journey into social media was Facebook, so I had been fairly new to the online scene. Everyone had already created MySpace accounts years prior, but my mother had always banned me from the website that has now faded into the sea of other online services. I had made my Facebook after my friend told me that it was necessary, so I had listed off reasons to my mother to let me begin my digital identity while my friend continued to validate my reasons. Alas, she gave in and I made my grand entrance on the internet through a lame profile picture and a an empty “wall”. When I began using Facebook, I was very much like Mae when she began at The Circle. She was a beginner. She had only been provided with one screen. In fact, as a prank Annie had decorated her new office to replicate that of her old place of work, right down to the burlap covered walls. Not much had changed yet and Mae was still connected to her old self before she had began taking on a new persona. The expectations in the company created an addiction around being online. Mae got trapped in the madness.

I created my Instagram about two summers ago after my sisters had bragged about how many likes they had gotten on their photos and claimed how that justified them as photographers. Well I wanted to be a part of this new trend. So my sisters had allowed me to use their iPods to create an account. I would do anything to get on Instagram. I would do their chores and beg and plead just so I could borrow their iPods in order to post one measly pictures in order to accrue more followers. I didn’t have the right equipment to be so obsessed, but yes; I was obsessed. It was all downhill from there. I acquired more and more social media accounts ranging from twitter to tumblr to vine to snapchat. All of the media platforms were covered, which was very similar to Mae. She started from one screen and escalated to seven letting social media intrude her life and control it. People today used to make fun of those who described every second and every minute of their lives online, but at The Circle, that was praised. They lived by the rule that privacy was theft, which sounds crazy but also sounds all too familiar. I used to look down upon those who did so as well, but I had become a hypocrite. Overall, I became absolved by my online persona, just like Mae.

The Circle – How it Relates to Life in the Real World

 

Kerbow, Michael. Hollow Pursuits, acrylic on canvas, 54x54 inches

Kerbow, Michael. Hollow Pursuits. Acrylic on canvas, 54×54 inches

         Over the summer all of the incoming students of my class were tasked with reading the Circle, a novel by Dave Eggers about a young woman named Mae rising up in an innovative company by completely giving up all of her privacy to the rest of the world. She sacrificed friendships and family relationships to maintain her standing in the Circle, and even when given the opportunity to escape she still denied it. After completing the book I was so disturbed by how intrusive society had become online that I felt the need to delete all of my accounts and maybe look into finding a small house somewhere deep into the woods of South Dakota. The way people in the book jumped onto the whole Circle bandwagon so quickly without a second thought was freaky. How could so many people fall into this trap and just hand over any privacy they could ever call their own?

         Then I realized that current society is pretty close to the world Dave Eggers created. It’s not required by law or to keep your job or health insurance or anything, but keeping tabs on any networking site is required socially. If you don’t keep up with Facebook then your great grandmother out in the Midwest will get offended that you aren’t responding to her “Mafia Wars” game requests. You won’t be at the forefront of any knowledge of when a band is playing or when a meeting for your weird fan club is held. The same goes for twitter, if you show up to class the day after a huge twitter fight occurred and you aren’t following either of the contestants, you might as well live under a rock. Many people these days believe that follower count acts as some sort of validation or measure of success. The other day a girl my age tweeted “#thousandfollowersclub” and then a couple of little satisfied emoji faces followed. She felt that she made some milestone in her life for getting one thousand people to follow her twitter, although most of said one thousand people have never spoken to her or seen her in person and most likely never will. It’s almost as if we are on a track for social media and mobile texting to replace any real life interaction.

         Beginning my first semester here at VCU is oddly enough falling parallel to Mae’s first few weeks at her job with the Circle. Much like how she had to use programs like Zing and Inner Circle social feeds, I am now required to check my new email daily and to use Blackboard, MyMathLab and MasteringChemistry to complete my everyday homework. Clickers are used for attendance and participation points in a few of my larger classes, and I use my ID card to gain access to my housing, food, and the gym. There is a fine line between using technology just enough, to where its convenient and helpful, and overusing technology so that it runs your life and eliminates any privacy. When are we going to find that line?

Relating to “The Circle”

I have always been active with my digital identity through Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, I didn’t entirely realize this as a possibly bad thing until quite recently when I was sitting in my room reading “The Circle” and slightly regretting those infinite hours I had spent on Tumblr for the past 3 years. In this day and age we need a clean digital identity as well a well-groomed physical identity.

When Mae began to wear the SeeChange, she started to act differently. The fact that she was wearing a camera and knew people could see her every move made her behave a certain way and maybe make different choices as opposed to ones she might have usually made. This is the crossover of the digital identity affecting the physical identity, the digital world manipulating the physical world. This crossover has occurred to me a couple of times in the past.

Tumblr was how I first experienced this intersection. For me Tumblr is a great blogging site allowing me to see a lot of visuals and maybe learn some things a long the way. About a year after I had started using Tumblr I began modeling, which requires a lot of shameless self-promotion through the digital realm. I used Tumblr and Facebook to set up my “modeling identity” and hopefully get some photo shoots. I soon did, and I developed a pretty solid portfolio.

Honestly, the whole modeling thing has built my self-confidence up significantly, so of course my cocky self is on Tumblr posting my pictures and kind of promoting myself. Now, I didn’t realize this, but some people from my school, a very small school, followed me on Tumblr and starting talking about me. They were talking badly about me and just saying nasty high school things. People started to just assume I was a giant cocky smart-ass, which honestly I kind of slightly am, when in actuality I’m nice, helpful and laid back. Now my digital identity didn’t affect my physical identity’s behavior, but my digital identity affected how people perceived me even if they didn’t know me.

If you know me personally, you know I’m a ridiculous nerd, shy and a little absent minded, but my digital identity perceived me as an egotistical narcissist. I realized digital identity affected me as well as others around me. Nowadays your Facebook can prevent you from getting a job. I started to think whether or not that was why I hadn’t been able to find a job this summer or whether it had pushed people away that I didn’t mean to push or pull people towards me I didn’t want to be around in the first place.

Mae had gotten the SeeChange as compensation for health care for her father, but if she did something that The Circle didn’t stand for, than they would probably strip Mae’s father of the health care he needed, just as how the decisions I made in the digital realm affected those in the physical one around me.

Being the Newb

The universal idea of being new to a place, group of people, or feeling is one that any person can relate to and understand. The whole concept that The Circle is founded around, the acceptance of every person to create completion, tries to illuminate the feeling of being new or an outsider. Being unfamiliar with something, it could be anything, is unpleasant for the majority, and I am a part of this majority. Since I was four years old, I lived in the same house in the same neighborhood with the same friends growing up. But when I was sixteen, I moved and everything changed, or so it seemed to me at the time. I went to a new school and had the common problem most people face of having no idea where to sit come lunchtime. When Mae had just begun to work at The Circle, she was ridiculed multiple times for things she did not even know were rules. Her manager basically yelled at her for not attending a Portugal brunch she had no idea she was invited to. What kind of insanity is that? From my experience, change in location and people is extremely difficult and while Mae is adjusting to her new workplace, she not only has a difficult time, but she changes herself in the process.

The question we of course must ask, is did Mae change for the better? Part of reading The Circle that connected to my thoughts and beliefs was Mae’s newness to her surroundings. But also, how her surroundings affected her personality. Personally, when I moved to a new setting, I spent the first week fearing the unknown from people to street names, it was all very unfamiliar. But I slowly began to find my way and changed as a person without really knowing it at the time. It is my belief that embracing the unknown develops character and personality and helps discover the true you (pun intended).  For myself this has applied, but Mae is a different case. While I surrounded myself by people who brought out the best in me, Mae in my opinion did not. She started hanging around with, for lack of a better word, sketchy guys and employees that did not seem to have any real loyalty. This ran off on her in the conclusion of the novel when faced with an important decision unfamiliar to Mae, she betrays Kalden a.k.a Ty and proves her loyalty to the company, much to the reader’s dismay.

Who is Mae? The hero, or the newbie? What would any of us had done if we were in her shoes? When faced with this question, we would all love to say that we would be the hero and save the day, but would we really? After being called a newbie, forced into unfamiliar jobs, and creating an online profile for herself, would Mae or any of us actually give up the “perfect” job just to follow the advice of the founder of The Circle?

The universal idea of being the newb and feeling uncomfortable with that hits home for most of us. The change resulting from a new lifestyle is totally personal to each individual, but also similar to us all. I wish I could say that I would be the hero and save the world from The Circle’s domination, but I have come to realize that it is much easier to say that than it would be to do.

keep-calm-and-newb-on

So keep calm and newb on. I believe that instead of feeling alone as most people do when they move to college or away from home in general, the feeling of loneliness could change because everyone knows what it is like to be the new person.

http://www.classicboxingcoach.com/boxing/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/keep-calm-and-newb-on.png

Connecting The Circle to college life

At the beginning of The Circle, Mae enters a completely different world, where she is not used to anything around her. To be more specific, she is entering The Circle, an internet company  which is her new career. Over the summer  when I read the early pages,  I could not relate to Mae as much as I do now, after just moving into college. I would compare The Circle to Virginia Commonwealth University, simply because both are “vast” and “new” situations that we are both stepping into. The description of Mae in the beginning shows that she is excited yet overwhelmed with the endless possiblities that The Circle provides, which is very similar to a large university with many programs and opportunities to offer. There are definitely key differences in Virginia Commonwealth University and The Circle.  One difference is The Circle destroys the sense of authenticity and a college such as VCU in the very diverse Richmond area, promotes authenticity. However, there are many similarities to our experiences, as we first arrived in our daunting new “homes.” Just two weeks ago, I drove up two and a half hours away from North Carolina, to move in. I was absolutely terrified but I tried not to show it.  Coming to a bigger town and a very large university was very intimidating and I felt lost in the crowd. When Mae  is at The Circle, she sees many sophisticated employees(they would not refer to themselves as this) in large glass offices, many levels with food courts, aquariums, and gift shops. The entire experience is so different than her past job which now seems completely dull and unfulfilling. After a week at college, this is how my high school felt to me, boring, in the very distant past, and containing the same people to look at every single day. This is usually an everyday occurrence for me, an example being: in the grocery store when I find a new flavor of mint chocolate chip ice cream, all the past boring flavors before that seem so irrelevant. This is how both Mae and I felt about this crazy change in our lives. After Mae settles in, she is immediately tested on her abilities and encouraged to participate in all the activities throughout The Circle’s campus, such as clubs and parties. This can relate to the SOVO fair and joining many clubs to be an active member of the student body at VCU, as well as attending friend’s parties to connect with others on campus. Also, being immediately tested on our abilities is common at VCU in hopefully every classroom setting.  In the end of  The Circle, Mae allows the entire corporation to take over her conscience, and develops into a person she was not once before. This was very unfortunate and made me give up on Mae as a character. Hopefully after four(fingers crossed) educational and interesting years at VCU, I will not be brainwashed in a negative way, and neglect my past high school friends with their different opinions(Mercer).

The Circle- A Not So Fictional Piece of Fiction

A young 24 year old leaves a small hometown to go work at an extremely fast paced company with the help of her college best friend. She’s awkward and in awe originally, trying to grab ahold of the knotted ropes. She stumbles her way through, falling several times, having multiple sexual experiences, and even a run in with the law along the way. Then it clicks, she it, she’s their new go to girl.

How endearing, right? Wrong. Not only does the novel rise the most nasty of feelings for the seemingly ignorant characters, but it also is a huge open-palmed slap in the face reminder that this blood-curdling dystopia can quite possibly be our future. And when I say our future, I mean the future of my own generation. This not so distant future includes technology not only surpassing the power of the human brain, but also being the core of human life. The sad thing is, we don’t even see it. Like Bailey, today’s youth only sees opportunity, necessity, and commonality. We, the young adult generation, see opportunity with every new innovation, whether for the sake of simplicity or because we actually believe in the ability to broaden the human mind with something such as the help of an all-knowing computer generated robot. The necessity, lies with the problem that these self entitled young adults grew up just as technology started to blossom. We know of nothing else, all we see is the importance to continue creating something new, to always strive for something MORE. Then there is the obsession with commonality, everyone has to have social network to stay in the loop, to remain ahead of the curve. My lack of a twitter, instagram, and a snapchat is considered nearly sickening by some of the more addicted youths.  My Mercer-like persona is seen just as his own, uncommon, unsocial, and flat out strange. What most people don’t understand, is that just because I don’t document every moment of my life doesn’t mean I’m not experiencing something amazing. Readers of The Circle see Mae go through an inner dilemma, where she attempts to keep certain things, such as kayaking, her own while also attempting to keep her fellow employees happy. What many fail to recognize is that there is a CHOICE. We are by no means obligated to post what we had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, because contrary to public opinion; most people really do NOT care. That being said, I see the allure that being involved offers. My roommate is on the opposite side of the socially involved scale than I am. She’s bubbly, interesting, and posts about 20 pictures a day. And she’s HAPPY. However, that’s her choice. When the commonality is forced, necessity pushes its boundaries, and opportunity is seen at every corner, we find ourselves falling victim to the situation presented in The Circle. I think I can speak for most of the annoyed readers when I say that we really DON’T want that to happen.

We are trapped in a circle, and there’s no way out!

 

eggers-the-circle

I’ve always liked being in my shell since I could remember. I guess some people define it as being anti-social but it have always have been this way. I’ve survived my high school years with the same excuse ‘I have a family event to attend…Oh I can’t go to the mall today, I have to study for this test…Oh I’m sorry I missed your birthday party, I was taking care of my sick grandmother.’ The reason why I’ve always kept myself distant is because the closer I got to people, the more expectations they had of me. There is a specific event in The Circle when Mae’s co-worker Dan is explaining to her the importance of communication and being involved in the Circle more. Since I’ve been in college, everyone seems to be promoting the same thing. Everyone is too eager to make new friends, be involved with their surroundings, be a part of something greater than them. I don’t blame them because every one of us finally got a sense of freedom from our family and being far away from home has its advantages. But when the spotlight is on me, when people expect me to be a part of everything, I just want to lay back and relax. Breath. When Mae kayaks in the novel, she has a sense of freedom, a sense of privacy. She feels like she can finally breathe and not have someone else breathing down her neck…which happens a lot…and she ignores that it bothers her.

I remember when I first got a cell phone, and the first time I got in to social networking. It felt as if that’s where I belonged in order to fit in with my surroundings. Unfortunately, when you act like someone you are not, sooner or later, that’s who you become. I felt I have a say in my community, through all the social networking. When we have a say in the world, and a sense of belonging, where people agree with you and people look up to you, you forget how to stop being dominant and you tend to think you are superior of everyone else. I can relate to Mae when she changed throughout the novel because at some point in every one our lives we have felt alone and we have tried to belong.

Even though everyone (even me) expected the ending to be some sort of fairy tale, it was impossible for such thing to happen. The fact that this book was written as a fiction is amusing to me because we live in a society where those fictional technologies are slowly advancing and we are reaching to the point where privacy has no meaning to us anymore and we would not mind being nosey and looking through other people’s blogs, pictures, and reading their messages, just as long as it does not happen to us. Throughout history, humans have been portrayed as selfish creature of nature with the wars we have fought and the lives we have taken, for our benefit. And this factuality is really depicted in this novel and it gave me extreme realization and changed my perspective of how and what I should prioritize.

We have been so sucked into the technologies! For instance, when I am hanging out with my friends, we spend more time looking at our phones than looking at each other for a conversation. We enjoy posting pictures of where we are than actually being there. We feel more comfortable speaking to someone behind a screen than in person. We rather write an email than a hand written letter. Just like technologies, our minds are advancing too and we are so far gone in this world filled with online networking dependent life that we forget human-to-human communication. We rather upload pictures on Instagram to show off where we are and whom we are with than printing out that photo to put in our album folder. We have reached a point where we live and breath to satisfy others and to make sure we seem like we are being involved in the society to not seem indifferent.

Imagine a life in the future with no technologies. No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. All the places you have saved your photos and you created an identity for yourself is erased. There is no proof of your existence and there is no proof of your identity. How will you belong? How will you make sure your future generation will have some sort of way to link back to you? Nothing can be done because it is too late..I guess just like Mae, we do not deserve a heroic ending. We are trapped in this circle of confusion and delusion, and there is no way out.

 

The Circle and My Life

The book “The Circle” creates a world in which I believe that our society is too smart to create. Although the intentions are good and move towards a “utopia” or the “closing of the circle”, I do not believe there will ever be that large of a monopoly in control of society. We were not born to be submissive – our society is by far too integrated and diverse to allow technology to take over. Sure, our generation relies on technology, things have changed as far as communication goes.. but I strongly believe that I am not the only person that would refuse to give up my privacy for safety. Sure, the inventions of the members of the Circle may give us a safer and more regulated place to live, but the risk is not worth the reward. I know I am not the first to say that our experiences and what we do behind closed doors shows our true character. We as people need times that challenge our integrity, our mind and our morals. It is our job to find what is right and what is wrong for ourselves. It is not the job of a computer, nor is it the job of someone else to decide what that is for us. There are good people and there are bad people, but that gives us the world that we know today. There is risk when we chose privacy over being open. If I had a camera following me everyday, sure, my behavior would be consciously monitored thus leading to me being a forcibly better member of society. When we are watched, we as humans conform to our peers and conventions, thus leading to no individuality.. everyone would act, say and do similar things.

We often complain about all the things wrong in the world we live in, but we should look at things we love once in a while. Our world as we know it has a substantial amount of problems, but we have so many different cultures, morals, religions, views and that is what makes our world interesting. Everyday you wake up to something new, something unexpected. Not to say that I love everything about our world, but it sure would be a shame if The Circle were real and took over. I like my own thoughts and I like being my own person. I like the risk and at the end of the day, I am grateful for my problems, too. They make us better people as opposed to how we’d be if our problems were taken care of before they even happened.

That being said, I think the book is great. I think it gives us a perspective on what technology can really do to our lives and minds. I hope the world never gets to that point, but I don’t think it will. Not all things are meant to be seen, and that is what makes us our own. I hope people never forget that… the feeling of the freedom that threads from individuality and privacy. We can never be perfect. We can just learn from the actions we choose to take… Which should always be a choice of ours.