Mae Holland is a 24 year old woman who is attending the first day of her new job at the extremely innovative and relatively new company The Circle. The Circle is a powerful and very influential company that is run and owned by the ingenious “Three Wise Men”. The Circle drastically changes the way people use the internet by getting them to use their real names in their TruYou account. TruYou is essentially one social media network that people can use instead of trying to remember all of their usernames and passwords for all of the other social media accounts. While Mae works in Customer Experience she makes friends and meets a few love interests. As Mae continues to work at The Circle, she begins to give up her old beliefs and give into The Circle’s ideology of transparency and truth throughout the world.
The Circle’s constant need for more information and more power over the people is a great warning for the future. When Mae suggests that all American old enough to vote should be forced to become Circle members, the reader and the characters around her that love her realize that she is almost completely gone. The Circle and it’s members quietly walk the very thin line between a utopian society and a totalitarian society. While Mae sees this new idea as a step forward towards transparency and peace, some of her loved ones see it for what it really is, which is step towards a world with no privacy or boundaries.
Having all of the information about everyone in the world seems great in theory because it would be so easy to find people who go missing or criminals on the run. Having all of that information could also be dangerous in the wrong hands or it could be dangerous to people who don’t want all of their information broadcasted to the world. Eggers does a great job of explaining this with the character Mercer, Mae’s ex-boyfriend. When Mae decides that she wants to use him for a presentation she needs The Circles help in order to find him. They do almost instantly, even though he had gone off of the grid to avoid the circle. It doesn’t end up going well for Mercer and Mae is shocked when she realizes that she was wrong about being able to change his mind about The Circle and it’s technology.
As I was reading this book I kept getting a feeling like I had read something very similar. And then right in the beginning of the end, when Mae gives up Kalden (aka Ty Gospodinov, one of the Three Wise Men) as a traitor to the company, I realized that this book reminded me a lot of 1984 by George Orwell. The endings are very similar whereas both of the protagonists fall back into the trap of conformity even after possibly falling in love and learning the truth about their lives.
This book should serve as a warning to the present and the future world. Technology and information can be powerful and extremely helpful, but if it is used in the wrong way for the wrong reasons it can be very dangerous. Eggers also warns the readers of conformity. In the beginning he creates a world and a company where individuality and openness is celebrated and encouraged. Then towards the end we see that everyone at The Circle wants to be transparent and watch the lives of other transparent people as entertainment. This book, much like the fictional company within it, is very informative, shocking, and brilliant.