Several months ago, I read a book, The Circle, by Dave Eggers. In it, a young woman begins to work for a social media technology company, and she begins to see the extent to which our devices and our profiles can take over our lives. While I didn’t particularly like the book, I appreciated the fact that it asked a pair of essential questions that my generation is going to have to confront: when do our connections on social media cross the line from beneficial to dangerous and when does transparency on social media become a violation of privacy?
A cinematic adaptation of the book recently came out, and I saw it this evening. Without spoiling anything, the ending in the movie is dramatically different from the one in the book. Unfortunately, the world of movies is far less comfortable with indeterminacy, something that literature has come to terms with far more maturely. While the book ended without answering the questions posed about society, the book does even worse: it gives the kind of resolution that rounds out a happy ending, without actually getting to the answers that the central theme demands.
The Circle is an attempt to answer the questions that we are going to have to engage with if we are going to continue to learn how to develop relationships via the internet. They can be uncomfortable questions, and they can force us to find the answers that might be right, but we may not like. Ironically, neither the book nor the movie did enough to come to any kind of conclusion. But, it was the inspiration to start the conversation, and hopefully readers and viewers will take the opportunity to talk offline to discuss how we can ensure that we remain in control of our social media, rather than consumed by it.