[Continued from part 1]
It’s one of the most innocent and compelling mottoes for young children. Sharing Is Caring. Nobody would dispute this. Until you start talking about communism.
As Mae becomes absorbed in her new job at the Circle, even putting her parents on her insurance plan, she begins to berate herself for not becoming totally immersed in the sociable work environment. “Be a person of some value to the world,” she tells herself. Her boss just had to tell her in a passive-agressive way that she had done something fundamentally wrong by not taking pictures on her kayak outing and sharing them for everyone to see.
This makes complete sense to her. After all, much of her own anxiety came from not knowing—not knowing what was going on, who was doing what, what the answer to a question was, what an experience was like, and perhaps most of all—most of all, not knowing what other people thought of her.
But how can you know what other people think of you if you do not put yourself out there?
So Mae learns to put herself out there. Like her, the world was out there, was for discovering, and needed to be known. The immense peer pressure to become part of this soon-to-be-globalized transparency leads her to volunteer (coercively) to be one of the first to wear the alll-seeing camera 24-7. Now that the whole world could be watching and listening, Mae begins to consciously make herself a better person. After all, someone is always judging her. This is a good thing. It keeps her on her toes. As Eggers writes,
“Now she was communicating with clients all over the planet[…]and altogether feeling more needed, more valued, and more intellectually stimulated than she ever thought possible.”
Everyone is not only watching Mae work, but use communication tools to influence behavior worldwide. Every time she favorites a zing or signs a petition, others see her do it and are motivated to do the same, making her feel like she really, really matters. With a click of a button Mae can feel the exhilaration of being a tremendous public idol and public influence. She becomes addicted to this constant cycle of participation through validation. All she has to do is smile or frown at everything, one thing at a time.
But as her old friend and anti-social media advocate reminds her, what is the actual record that you actually lived here? Erase every digital nod or shake that you’ve done, and what’s left that you’ve experienced?
Mae is fully convinced at this point that sharing everything about yourself can only be good for you, and for others. After all, by sharing every conscious thing with the world, she has gained millions of followers, the admiration of her coworkers and family, and enough self esteem to harvest the world’s secrets. She must check herself for how she is behaving to this crowd, but she is always rewarded with positive feedback when she does. As long as she remains on this treadmill of presentation and validation, Mae can’t possibly come down. She has, after all, so much support.
Everyone is so happy to share in her experience. Mae is coming ever so closer to the center of the circle. And the world seems to be following her. The world is sharing so much now. Humanity is caring. Humanity is sharing. It’s a dream made possible by technology and a noble spirit. These are true utopians.
Now we just need to complete the circle. [part 3]