Deactivating Facebook! And a book review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

6:57 PM

Some of you who know me know that I am a big fan of dystopian novels. Margaret Atwood is consistently my favorite author, followed closely by Dave Eggers, only heightened by his 2013 release, The Circle.

So when I came across this article in The Atlantic that in other words talks about a guy "going transparent" just like the characters in The Circle, it was almost funny. 

So let's play a game! Guess which paragraph is from the "anti-privacy" activist's kickstarter page and which is fictional  (that's anti-privacy not piracy, meaning he is against privacy)

a) "My observation is this: in most societies we recognizing the right of people to keep secrets. But really there’s only one purpose for keeping secrets: secrets exist to prevent other people from acting as they would if they had complete information."

b) "I'm a believer in the perfectibility of human beings. I think we can be better. I think we can be perfect or near to it. And when we become our best selves, the possibilities are endless. We can solve any problem. We can cure any disease, end hunger, everything, because we won't be dragged down by all our weaknesses, our petty secrets, our hoarding of information and knowledge.”

c) "Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know - they'd trade it all to know they've been seen, and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered. We all know we die, We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment."

d) "I believe that the type of government and society that will persevere while other forms of government fail and are replaced, is a government that does not recognize the right to privacy, but rather says that everyone in a society has the right to perfect information, so that they can act according to their own best interest."

The biggest points I took from reading The Circle this winter and reflecting on the Atlantic article today:

1. We are voluntarily over-sharing our information, likes, and whereabouts - information that is valuable and has the possibility of being used for both good and evil. 
2. We are constantly in danger of living a life that is performed and recorded (by us) but not truly experienced.
3. We are inundated with information, ads, news, tidbits about other people's lives and opinions to the point where it can get exhausting to switch gears that fast and react emotionally to all these random things.

These aren't new ideas, and I love progress and I love sharing and I especially love photos and video, so much so that I've made it my careerIt's not that I think that opting out is the best response to someone's crazy dystopian kickstarter campaign, but I do think that everyone needs to regulate their own investment in their online lives vs their authentic participation in each moment of the day. 

If you've read The Circle or want to, I highly recommend also reading this article afterwards. It almost seems like the kickstarter author copy and pasted parts of the book into his campaign - he is making all of the same arguments - again, guess which one is fictitious and which isn't:

e) "Some of these things I would do again in a world without privacy. Some of them I probably would not... But each of these decisions was made in an environment where the understanding was that they would be kept private. I’m not advocating that all activities made within that context should be revealed. I’m arguing that a society that does so, going forward, will reap benefits that outweigh the cons."

f) “When there’s something kept secret, two things happen. One is that it makes crimes possible. We behave worse when we’re not accountable... And second, secrets inspire speculation. When we don’t know what’s being hidden, we guess, we make up answers... But if all the doors are open... there’s only the one truth.”

They both believe that without secrets, people would be better, more moral. But it's exactly that line of thinking that leads to the main motto of the very Orwellian The Circle, “SECRETS ARE LIES, SHARING IS CARING, PRIVACY IS THEFT.” It's worth a read!

So what to do? I have been known to try to convince friends and family to return to or join facebook - I think it's a fantastic tool to connect especially across great distances, but just like not shaving my armpits or my legs, I like to know that I wield the control to opt in or out. Right now I don't feel like I do, with Facebook especially, and I feel overwhelmed by the flux of unrelated information flooding in when I scroll through my news feed. So I am going where many friends have gone before and disabling facebook for a while. I plan to be back, when technology benefits me again, instead of the inverse.

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