Will Future Technology Be the End of Compassion? > Review of Feed by M.T. Anderson
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Dear caring reader,
My rating: 3 or 5 stars
Anderson. M.T. 2013. Feed. Somerville, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.
In a future not too far from our own, the continuous and codependent stream of consumerism and entertainment infiltrates the minds of society through "the Feed." Titus is just an average teenager who lives life synonymously within "the Feed," that is until he meets Violet a freethinking girl who challenges Titus to notice the realities of data-mining, self-ownership, and environmental decay.
*Contains some spoilers*
I have to say that this book left me feeling extremely saddened. The story illustrates our world overtaken by consumerism, technology, and surface level connections between people. I felt so much for Violet, for her desire to form a meaningful relationship with Titus.
The majority of American citizens have a highly advanced computer network implanted into their brains. This "Feed" allows people to access network sites mentally, to participate in virtual reality simulations, to communicate their consumer desires to companies and services, and to communicate telepathically.
"The Feed," usually installed at birth, becomes an integral and tantamount part of people's being.
Both the person and "the Feed" influence and affect one another and thus, "the Feed" ultimately shapes each individual's identity.
Thus, the question alluded is, would people develop different identities without "the Feed," or does the "the Feed" fundamentally take away each person's ability to develop a unique identity? Adults and teens alike use the same "slang like" language and flock to the same "latest styles." There is very minimal variance in people's personalities, except for Violet and her father who seem to have the most individual identities.
Though we do not have anything like "the Feed" does the technology we experience not influence who we are and who we portray ourselves to be? We still live in a world driven by consumerism and increasingly social media and selfies. Craig Groeschel states in his book #struggles that when we become so used to creating an online perfected image of ourselves "we don't even know who our real self is anymore" (2015). One can see glances of this issue in Feed.
Unlike Titus and the bulk of the characters, Violet doesn't have such a positive and complacent view of "the Feed." She is looking for something, for her identity separate from the influence of "the Feed."
Violet's dilemma parallels with our lives when we stop searching for our identity in this world. We will continually be seeking for our identity until we find our true identity which is in Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
Developing from this lack of identity due to the consumer driven and self-centered nature of "the Feed," people seem to have lost a greater sense of morality and integrity. This deterioration can be seen in the rather disconcerted nature of Titus's dad visiting him at the hospital on the moon, Titus's friends' actions, and mostly in the continually negligent regard Titus has for Violet as she declines after her malfunction. The culmination of Titus's lack of integrity is showcased in the argument between Titus and Violet's father and the turning point in Titus's veracity comes to fruition in his final visit to Violet.
Although the apathetic actions by the novel's characters may seem exaggerated, this is, in fact, happening in our own culture. We are becoming less and less compassionate to others.
"According to a comprehensive study from the University of Michigan, we care about others 40 percent less than people in the 1980s did, with the biggest drop-off in empathy occurring after the year 2000. Reasons for this drop in empathy is anyone’s guess, but the increase in media (both social and mainstream) and violent video games have been trotted out as the likely suspects" (Pickett, 2013).
This is very disheartening. The Life.Church message #struggles Compassion explains that part of the reasons for the declining compassion is
"We're more obsessed with ourselves.
Overwhelming exposure to suffering desensitizes us.
Lack of personal interaction makes it easier not to care" (2017).
All of these reasons can be seen in Feed.
In the middle of Violet's suffering, her malady, Titus feels nothing. He may care to some degree, but not enough to take any action or to serve her in her illness. He simply goes home and orders new pants, until his credit runs out.
"True compassion demands action. Compassion interrupts. Compassion costs. Compassion changes lives" (Life.Church, 2017).
The sardonic nature of this book allows for a greater critical look at our own world today and can generate much discussion for young adult and adult readers alike.
Are we showing the love and compassion of Jesus?
"A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him.“I am willing,” he said.“Be healed!”"~ Mark 1:40-41
Jesus was and is willing to help and show compassion, Titus wasn't.
Though I stated at the beginning that this book left me feeling saddened, I would still recommend it. The themes hit close to home as we live in a world more and more influenced by consumerism, entertainment, surface-level connections, and apathy. Thus I believe readers can gain awareness and perspective on the impact of these factors in our spiritual lives through reading about Titus and Violet.
Yours Truly, LeNae
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Groeschel, Craig. 2015. #struggles. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Life.Church. 2017. #struggles: Compassion. Accessed April 3. https://www.life.church/watch/struggles/compassion/.
Pickett, Paul K. 2013. Humans Are Far Less Empathetic Than They Used To Be. August 25. http://knowledgenuts.com/2013/08/25/humans-are-far-less-empathetic-than-they-used-to-be/