You may find yourself so engrossed in Dave Eggers's futuristic novel, The Circle, that you forget about Facebook entirely. And by the last pages, you may think twice before logging on again.
Eggers's 24-year-old heroine, Mae, gets a job at the Circle, a culty Internet giant idolized for its innovations. Her journey there mimics our own reaction to new technology: At first she's dazzled. So what if the company gobbles up private information? They throw great parties and make her feel as if she's a member of an exclusive club.
But Mae is increasingly drawn into the company's time and information-sucking vortex, eventually working nearly 20-hour days, relinquishing intimate personal data to her superiors, and even enduring a camera that films her every waking moment. In exchange, the company covers her father's skyrocketing health care costs—he has MS—and provides Mae with a job outsiders envy for its cachet. The Circle brilliantly illuminates how social media can offer invitations to community that are actually invasions of privacy. But this is not some paranoid send-up. The novel poses tough questions about exhibitionism, confidentiality, even spirituality. It's only when Mae can find her way back to the most interior practices—love, prayer—that her journey finally feels complete.