The most interesting thing that happened to me today is something that I don’t want to write about on my blog. This in turn made me think of Dave Eggers’ The Circle, the book I read for the Capitol Hill book club a couple weeks ago.
Forewarning: if you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading now.
In the book, Mae comes to the Circle — a Facebook/Twitter/Google monster hybrid — with a sense of privacy. She uses social media, but no more than necessary to her. It doesn’t occur to her that she should constantly be “zinging” her experiences or replying to invites and messages, and it weirds her out that her new coworkers know way more about her than she’s ever told them.
She is an insufferable, naive character, but she borders on almost likable when she gets away from all that while she’s out on a kayak in the Bay Area. The ability to see things that she believes no one else has seen, experience something that is simply hers and no one else’s — she savors that. It’s private.
But that’s abruptly taken away when she’s spotted going on a late night trip through through a SeeChange camera (basically a surveillance camera). Her fellow Circle people want her to see the error of her ways. Her jaunt could have been dangerous for her, damaging to another character’s business, hurtful to her friends and family if something had happened to her. This desire to be alone in the quiet was selfish, she’s told.
She buys right into that, and next thing the reader knows, she makes a complete 180 by becoming “transparent” — there’s a camera on her at all times, showing what’s she’s doing nearly all hours of the day, except for when she’s supposed to be asleep or in the bathroom.
That causes people to put on an act for her whenever she’s around. And the people she actually is close to — her best friend, her ex, her mysterious lover, her parents — drift away because, as a couple of them put it, it’s “too much.”
Through this work of fiction, Eggers demonstrates the importance of personal privacy. It’s not selfish to sometimes want to keep something to yourself. When you take that away, you take away a key tenet of your own humanity.
I guess that’s my away of saying that even I need some things not to be public knowledge.