Every few months a picture of people being on their phones while at a dinner or a party makes the rounds on social media. Although twitter and Facebook users are quick to denounce this anti-social behavior, the trend persists. In today’s social media culture people are so concerned with being up to
date and curating their personal image online that they forget to live in the present. They are so wrapped up cyberspace that they forget to be an engaging human being in physical encounters. Mercer recognizes that Mae is on the precipice of falling into this exact dark abyss of social media absorption. It is not until Mae’s stolen kayak incident however that she fully loses her ability to distinguish between a real and simulated life.
Mae is brainwashed to believe that constant communication is not only beneficial, but absolutely necessary. Mae quickly becomes obsessed with social media usage and maintaining her status in the T2K of the Parti-Rank. She dedicates several hours a day to sitting behind a screen and sending zings, smiles, likes, and comments through cyberspace. She communicates with people from around the globe without forming a memorable connection with any one of them. Moreover, she feels a profound sense of accomplishment for being so “social” on social media platforms. She does not recognize that sending a smile to a Guatemalan victim of terrorism and a frown to the paramilitary perpetrators does not amount to actually making a difference in the world. She does not recognize that the power she wields by sitting behind a screen is artificial.
Additionally Mae, much like many people in the real world, has lost her ability to effectively communicate in person. Mercer desperately please that he just wants to talk to her directly without her “bringing in every other stranger in the world who might have an opinion about me [him] (Eggers, 132).” Even at home Mae cannot refrain from posting pictures of Mercer’s chandelier. Although she might have posted with good intentions, her inability to stop looking at zings during dinner indicates something more insidious. Mercer again desperately pleads that she stop reading outsider comments, but Mae is indoctrinated to believe sharing is good. In today’s world this sort of simulated conversation is very common. Two people will be talking while looking at their phones the whole time and reading off what they see. The idea of having to photograph every moment, like taking a picture of Mercer’s
, is also in line with today’s social media culture. Millennials often use the phrase “pics or it didn’t happen” because there is this pressure to post online to prove one’s activities to the world.
More disconcertingly Mae begins to change her behaviors with consciousness that outsiders can watch her with SeeChange cameras. Mae began to “think a bit harder about the clothes she wore to work. She thought more about where she scratched, when she blowed her nose and how (Eggers, 243).” This final change indicates something far more unsettling. Mae’s simulated and artificially crafted life is becoming her real life. For Mae there is no difference between the two.