Dave Eggers writes novel about social media, has no idea what social media is
I confess I could hate-read reviews of Eggers THE CIRCLE all fucking day. His smarmy smug approach to literature and cloying over-written preciousness have irritated me since day one and seeing other people take him to task gives me such a glorious feeling of schadenfreude that it perversely makes me wish Eggers released *more* books just so I could read people bagging on what a lazy author he is.
The problem with this critique of social media is that Eggers doesn’t understand it’s actually social. Eggers imagines a world without subtweets or hate favs, a world where everything can be taken at face value. The act of communicating with other human beings is reduced to the act of hitting buttons and getting numbers back. Eggers constantly describes the quantity of messages that Mae receives, the rankings she is given, the number of emails she has answered, but almost never what they actually contain. Mae can climb the internal social ranking of 10,000 employees in a single night, because all it takes is sheer effort. We don’t know what persona she projects, because Eggers doesn’t tell us. He doesn’t bother to determine whether she wins followers by saying things that are interesting or stupid or crazy or catty or redundant, because in the fucked-up, inauthentic world of social media, your social influence is simply a function of the number of clicks you make.
It’s unclear why anyone would want to do this, so Eggers has to make his characters’ obsession with social media something that is imposed from above. Mae’s supervisors at The Circle reproach her when she doesn’t share every aspect of her life. They demand that she post more and me.
This is where we see the dangers of having a crank—even a precocious crank—project his opinions onto a nubile 24-year-old protagonist. Only a few categories of people experience social media as something that is imposed from above. Among them are established authors and journalists, whose publishers may start prodding them to promote their work on a new platform. Most people who joins social media do it willingly, because it’s the only platform they have.
The idea that your company might pick out your Twitter handle for you, without any consultation, as Mae’s does, is about as plausible as the idea that Google’s cafeteria might thoughtfully pre-chew your food.
The whole thing is massively confused, starved of a basic understanding of how people communicate through any medium: Facebook, LinkedIn, the telegraph, air.