There are few books that grabbed me as much as this one. Maybe because the story hits so close to home; maybe because it begins quite normal, with exaggerated modes of the use of social media, but still, it all seems to be within the realm of possibilities.
The Circle is a large enterprise, similar to Apple or Google, it´s innovative, young, full of energy and positive spirit to improve the world; to make life easier. But things get more and more out of hand as the main character, Mae, and her coworkers get sucked into the need of apparent "freedom" and "safety" ... and the need for numbers.
Numbers of followers, numbers of friends, numbers of comments,... If you have low social numbers, then you are not social, your rank diminishes. So Mae and her coworkers spend many hours at social sites to increase their social rankings. This made me wonder - why are there numbers at all? What if all the social media would drop their numbers? Who cares if somebody has 10, 100 or 1000 "friends"? Is somebody with 1000 friends in any way better than one with 10? Of course not! So why even mention the number of friends? Or consider scientific social media - they also rank you, based on the number of publications, but also based on the number of downloads, the number of comments, the number of questions asked...Is somebody that spends more time on a scientific social platform a better researcher? Of course not! But why then rank people in social media at all? It seems completely useless and misleading. It is scary that I also was happy when my rankings increased, without further thinking about how useful they are.
I have to admit, so far I was not really worried about internet, as I thought that I have nothing to hide. How wrong I was! But read for yourself.
The book has some lengthy parts; and the end, to me, is too fast and quite unsatisfying. But altogether the book still makes for a very compelling read to open our eyes to the dangers of social
media. I am looking forward to more frequently meet my friends in person and to start writing letters again.
You can find a more detailed and more critical review of this book in the NYTimes.