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Part Of The Problem With ‘The Circle’: It Can’t Face The True Problems Of Social Media


Uproxx / EuropaCorp

The Circle arrived in theaters Friday, clearly hoping to start a conversation. Set at a fictional Social network, it seeks to address the deep-seated anxieties we have about Social Media and a shifting culture where privacy seems to be receding like an endlessly ebbing tide. It’s a well-meaning attempt to be serious, hamstrung by the fact that it’s not equipped to deal with the issues it raises.

The basic plot follows Mae Holland (Emma Watson), a PR representative of sorts who joins the social Media company of the title and quickly agrees to be followed around by its drones and tracked by the company 24/7. The Circle believes that “privacy is theft” and “secrets are lies,” among other ominous pronouncements, and its ultimate goal is to have everyone monitored by The Circle all the time. The corp argues that this is all for the betterment of society. After all, sunlight is the best disinfectant, right?

Mae is quickly drawn deep into the Circle’s cult-like atmosphere, and entangles her parents; her ex, Mercer (Ellar Coltrane); and others in its web. The Circle is shown to be so powerful it can find a fugitive in minutes, a tool that Mae uses to hunt down Mercer (and which winds up killing him as he drives off a bridge to avoid the many watching eyes of the Circle’s inescapable drones). Soon, of course, Mae is faced with a choice: Destroy the Circle for the greater good, or surrender to the pleasures it offers and let the world be pulled along with her.

As a thriller, it’s serviceable enough, though more than a little predictable. But in its larger goal — creating conversation about the issues of social media and modern technology — it misses the mark, for reasons, albeit for reasons that aren’t really its fault.

The Circle bumps into a problem we’ve seen before: The real moral concerns of modern tech don’t translate well to a screen. In many ways, the movie flatters Silicon Valley with the idea that it’s even capable of something like this — that it could ever engage in such massive-scale social control. In reality, we’ve seen this year that tech companies have little control over their creations (which the industry is finally realizing might be a real problem). A leaked internal white paper from Facebook not only admits the company was, in fact, to blame for the fake news running rampant across the platform during the 2016 election, but that the company was also powerless to stop it.

On another level, The Circle flirts with the main philosophical issue of social media but uses it to drive a fairly conventional plot instead of dealing with it head on. What social media has laid bare is that privacy isn’t an objective standard but a subjective goalpost, something we’ve never really considered before, as a collective society. For some it’s a bargaining chip, for others a precious right, while others still make a fine living by oversharing. After all, joining Facebook or Twitter or Instagram isn’t a legal requirement, and they only know what you bother to tell them and what they can glean from your habits. Big Brother is watching you… but only if you let him.

EuropaCorp

It’s easy to forget that dark, creepy conspiracies are, on a root level, comfort food. That’s why the movies love them. The real message of any conspiracy theory is that the world is under control and that bad things do not just strike randomly. But we’ve seen this year that there is randomness in the world of tech. And that the randomness is also scary.

Conspiracy theories offer a simplified worldview — a 1980s video game with one big boss at the end. In reality, the world’s problems are probably driven by a bunch of little conspiracies, that we are all partially complicit in, rather than one big one. Social media doesn’t control us, it mirrors us. We are both its creators and the product it sells. We are the heroes and the villians; the knight in shining armor and the monster with gnashing teeth. The Circle lets us off the hook by pretending the system can trap us in its web, when, in fact, we are the web, the spider, and the fly.



This post first appeared on Meet The Cast Of The ‘Game Of Thrones’ Porn Pa, please read the originial post: here

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Part Of The Problem With ‘The Circle’: It Can’t Face The True Problems Of Social Media

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