Transparency is a value highly regarded by the Circle. It is arguably the most important ideology in which makes the Circle as successful as it is. This ideology drives the work of many at the Circle, and therefore, attracts millions of people to participate in all the Circle has to offer. In order to illustrate a theme throughout the novel, Eggers shows the consequences of transparency through Mae as she takes on the role of a Circle Ambassador, allowing readers to make a judgement on the negative effects of transparency and the moral decisions that result in order to achieve this ideology.
As a Circle Ambassador, it is Mae’s job to document her daily life, offering opinions, personal experiences, and providing insight to her likes and dislikes. People who “follow” Mae have the ability to watch her in real time, leaving no involuntary action or private moment unseen by millions of people. Mae’s new role has many positive benefits for the company, which is the reason in which she is employed for this job. In this position, followers are able to experience Mae’s life as she does, learning about the Circle, her job, medical information, and family life. By showing these aspects of her life, the Circle hopes that people can identify with Mae, learn from what she goes through, and use it to make their own lives better. The Circle’s dominance of all aspects of life forces them to connect to their audience emotionally since much of the organization is run online. By connecting their online life with a real and physical role found in Mae, the Circle is able to dominate both the emotion and action of their users, making the company extremely successful.
While Mae’s role certainly provides benefits to the Circle, it does more harm than good, despite the fact that Mae and anyone closely connected to the company fails to see this. Mae’s role as a Circle Ambassador encourages criticism, changes Mae’s typical course of action, and invades on private moments. As Mae offers her opinion on various aspects of her life, users are able to provide feedback and comments regarding the issues. After Mae left her home and received the letter from Mercer, she read it aloud, and in doing so, criticism of Mae and her dating choices were remarked by users, “Mae, were you ever so young and dumb?” (Eggers, 370). This inside access to Mae’s life and feelings on it encouraged her to try to find validation in the opinions of others, a character choice that her family feels is deeply affecting her. Additionally, Mae’s typical choices were persuaded by being transparent. Whenever she wanted to indulge with a brownie, she refrained. She made health choices that promoted a better way of living even if it’s not what she wanted to do, showing how transparency can force you into something you want people to see you as, not who you really. In Mae taking on this role, she not only affected herself, but she influenced the lives around her. Anyone she interacted with was forced into this transparency themselves. Her doctor, family, and friends all had to deal with Mae’s new role. When Mae walks in on her parents and intrudes on their sexual life, it is caught on camera. When Mae confronts Bailey about the issue, thinking he will remove the feed so it can’t be resurfaced, he says that it goes against the company’s value. The company prioritized giving viewers information and providing insight into Mae’s life over her family’s emotional stability and private life. These negative consequences have affected Mae’s life significantly, and people further out from the Circle can see that. Within the company, transparency is priority and without it, the Circle wouldn’t exist.