I desperately wanted to read this for book club, because there are a thousand things I want to discuss after reading this. I think I enjoyed the concepts of privacy and work/life balance raised in this book more than the book itself. The plot can be obvious; the twists are easy to see; the ending is basically written before you finish the book. It is long, and can be preachy at times. But it’s the kind of book that raises interesting questions, and ideas, and fosters fun conversations about the future of the internet. So I think that it’s ultimately worth a read.
Mae Holland goes to work for the Circle, a kind of Google/Facebook hybrid company that seems to control everything internet related. She feels special working there; it’s seen as a hip, desirable place to work and she used to be stuck in a dead in job. And who doesn’t want to feel special?
This book is sort of a “worst case scenario” about the decreased level of privacy in our lives. People are frequently outraged about how their personal information is being “taken” from them – by Facebook, to sell to marketers, and so on and so forth. But I think the more interesting problem is that people are giving up their privacy. They are willingly logging on, documenting their every move, and storing it with a third party. We live so much of our private lives in public now. And no one really questions why they’re giving up their own privacy; the questions seem to surround what the third parties do with that information once it’s out there.
There are also questions of how far you would go for your job. Mae is clearly uncomfortable with some of the norms in her workplace. She finds the constant social media buzzing distracting. She doesn’t always 100% buy into the mission statement of the Circle. But she ignores her inner alarm bells. It’s easy to get caught up in your work, and the culture of your office. That feeling of “specialness” drives Mae to extremes, and away from her family and friends. It’s kind of uncomfortable to think about the place of work in our lives now (especially because I’m young) and how work seems to take over sometimes.