As a high schooler, I wasn’t into social media like my peers. Back then, I couldn’t grasp the importance or necessity of having and managing social media that revealed my personal life. This “unsocial” aspect of my life would have gotten me fired instantly at the Circle. In the Circle, everything is interconnected and employees jobs are all connected and pushed to upload personal information to their social media. During Mae’s conflict with Josiah, he mentions: “Mae, don’t you see that it’s all connected? You play your part. You have to part-icipate”(Eggers 189). This characteristic of the Circle raises an important question regarding data and privacy. Since the Circle is, primarily, an IT company, electronic data holds significant value within its system. However, one must realize the inseparable connection between Data and Privacy. Because data, in social media, is essentially personal information, the issue of privacy must be discussed along side it. To me, as a member of society, privacy and data are inseparable.
The Circle shows the consequences of stressing data over users’ privacies. One example is how the Circle scan its employees’ laptops. After the incident with Alistair, Annie told Mae about the pictures from Mae’s vacation: “If they were on your laptop, now they’re in the cloud, and the cloud gets scanned for information like that.”(Eggers 111). This incident shows how the Circle digs for everybody’s personal data with or without their consents.Though it is exaggerated to a small degree, Eggers does bring up an interesting question about data and privacy. By almost obsessing over users’ data and exposing them, the Circle went from an innocent technology company into a more cynical almost “political” group, impacting and surveying over its users’ lives. This ultimately leads to conflict between two groups. One character who supports the Circle’s view is Mae. Interestingly, eventhough Mae felt uncomfortable exposing her personal life, she eventually adapted to the system and was a strong advocate for data exposure and destroying the curtain that is privacy. Mae, as a character in this novel, supports and represents an ideology: privacy is crime.
However, the opposite view also holds a strong presence in the novel. This view, supported and represented by Mercer, Mae’s ex-boyfriend, is the complete opposite to Mae’s position. Mercer is a whole-hearted supporter of individuals’ privacies. As a childhood friend, Mercer witnessed how Mae changed since working for the Circle. He says this about Mae: “You feel wasted and hollow and diminished.”(Eggers 135). From what Mercer says here, readers can notice that the Circle, as a social media service, brought about personal and psychological changes to Mae. As a reader, I stand by what Mercer says here. For the past few years, I’ve witnessed many of my own friends having a “two-faced” side to their personalities. Simply put, their behavior within the “social media realm” were usually different to how they acted in real life. This, to me, depicted those friends as pretentious and cynical. Within the novel, Mercer probably would have felt this kind of change in Mae. Though biased to a certain degree, I agree with Mercer’s view on the importance of privacy over the public exposure of data.
These issues aren’t just imaginary issues in a novel. They’re also contemporary social issues. Services like Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites are suffering criticism from those who stress privacy over sharing personal information publically. However, as an interesting novel’s reader, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Circle, as a corporation, deal with the criticism from those like Mercer and myself.