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In a world where knowledge is everything, analysis and understanding are the purposes of all activity, and life itself is driven by the ideal that “all that happens must be known”, there is one occurrence that Mae Holland cannot seem to understand, escape, or even seem to mention to anyone else – “the tear” (Eggers 197). This internal tearing Mae feels represents her torn feelings on having too much or not enough knowledge.
Mae begins to feel the “black rip” inside her chest shortly after her first encounter with Kalden, and it apparently makes a regular appearance several times per week as the length of time spent without information on Kalden’s whereabouts increases (Eggers 197). In these instances of internal despair, Mae is confounded at the mysterious aura Kalden possesses and valiantly attempts to contact him through all of the conventional methods at the time such as CircleSearch and LuvLuv (Eggers 196). Her frustration envelopes her entire being in these brief moments as she realizes that she cannot have access to a particular type of information, and her mind is not able to function wholly, as her consciousness is momentarily obsessed with a sliver of information that is currently unavailable. However, millions of items of data are accessible to everyone at the type of a word or click of a mouse. Mae’s fixation on momentarily unattainable information resembles an instance in which a small child is in a room full of toys and yet its only desire is to receive a particular new toy in the shop that serves no particular purpose aside from satisfying its immediate desire. Instant gratification is no strange concept, especially to millennials; the convenience of information accessibility has influenced individuals’ capabilities to accept not having certain information, or rather, not being entitled to receive certain information. Mae faces this problem of previously having all the world’s knowledge at her fingertips, and yet her one burning question, “What is this Kalden guy’s story?” is unresearchable, and apparently, unanswerable. This “tear” she feels deep within her expresses her foundation of instant gratification splitting as she realizes the fact that there is some information she simply cannot have.
Conversely, the internal black rip that Mae feels represents an overload of knowledge and of the society itself. Leading up to the tear’s appearance, Mae is always faced with an instance of frustration and loneliness that results from lack of information about her loved ones, whether it is about Kalden, who has no reliable methods of communication, her parents, who eventually refuse to contact Mae or let her check up on them through their SeeChange cameras, or even Annie, who essentially ended all communications with her friend after the pair had had a fight. This lack of information causes Mae to internally spiral to a place of helplessness that can only be cured by social interaction with other people, acting as a reassurance of Mae’s premier social standing and reinforcement of the idea of instant gratification. Mae always turns to social media, to her followers, for support when her actual loved ones are unavailable. However, this massive audience to Mae’s social contribution, her constant flow of smiles, comments, and feedback to millions of others worldwide, actually contributes greatly to the tear itself. In addition to the feeling of despair that plagues Mae in these moments, she also hears the “screams of millions of invisible souls” (Eggers 197). The voices she hears cannot be explained, and even Mae herself does not mention this phenomenon to anyone else at the Circle simply because of its seeming abnormality. Then again, is it abnormal? The internal screaming is symbolic of the millions of items of irrelevant information floating around her consciousness with nowhere to go, nowhere to be released. They are transformed into loud voices to try to serve as a wake up call to Mae that there is too much information in her mind, generally unnecessary information that serves no applicable, constructive purpose. It is at these moments that is fact is presented to Mae in one of the most alarming ways, and she does recognize it to an extent. She notices the feeling and realizes it somewhat subsides when even more information is poured into her consciousness. These moments are recognizable as withdrawal symptoms similar to those a drug addict would face, although not necessarily as severe. Information, social media and virtually connecting to the rest of the world have become Mae’s drugs of choice, and she has no imminent desire to rehabilitate her views on life.
Mae’s internal hole is a void that cannot be filled with everything she is desperately trying to put into it: knowledge. An excess of available information and withheld knowledge are both two devious factors that contribute to her frequent experience of overwhelming despair.