Feed, a satirical novel written by M. T. Anderson, depicts a futuristic world where technology is not just all around us anymore, but inside our own heads at all times. The majority of Americans have a Feed. This is the mechanism that is installed into one’s brain (preferably at birth, as the reader learns) that allows for one to immediately look up anything, watch a show, shop, message one another and everything else that people nowadays are used to doing using laptops and cell phones.
As Anderson makes clear in an essay in the postscript of the book, this novel was not meant as a warning of what the future may hold, but a satire on the world as he saw it when as he was writing the novel. This makes Feed much more frightening, as many parallels with our world of today become apparent throughout. This is startling because throughout the novel it becomes apparent that the dependence on this new technology leads the characters in the novel to have a lack of personhood, intelligence and true cultural awareness. The lack of personhood is constantly manifested, and in several different ways, throughout the whole of the novel.
When Violet becomes sick from her malfunctioning Feed, her father tries to petition the corporations to fix it, but she had been doing her “experiments” where she went pretended to be interesting in random items but never bought them so the Feed would be unable to classify her. This turned out to be part of her downfall because the corporations all decided that she was not “…a reliable investment” (247). This shows that the corporations only view their customers as commodities, and if this commodity cannot be relied on to increase their profits, then that human life is worthless.
On the flipside, all of Titus’s female friends are easily classified. These girls get updates throughout the day of what the new style is and run to the bathroom and change their hair or clothes to fit in, and because of this blind following of others completely lack any individuality. In this society there is no chance at real personhood because if you are different and not able to be defined by the corporations you are worthless, but Calista and Quendy have no personhood either, because they have no sense of self or individuality.
The Feed puts all the information that anyone could need at the fingertips of its users, but because of that people accept the idea of never actually gaining any intelligence. Although that is not entirely true; The corporations now run SchoolTM and teach people “…how to work technology and how to find bargains…” (110). With this it becomes apparent that the only smarts which are valued in this society is how to be the best consumer, even reading and writing has been deemed unnecessary.
This general lack of intelligence is poignantly articulated by Anderson with the diction and syntax that is used by all the characters throughout the novel. There are rarely any Latinate word usages and sentences are often as simple as those from See Spot Run. Even the President is inarticulate in an excerpt from an address. “It is our duty…to stand behind our fellow Americans and not cast…things at them. Stones, for example” (85). When the leader of the free world cannot even think of the word stone in a presidential address, then it is clear that there is a problem with the level of intelligence in the country.
While the characters in the novel with a Feed are hyper conscious of the culture that they are surrounded by, they do not have the first clue about anyone outside of their social circle. Perhaps the strongest evidence to this point is the fact that twenty three percent of Americans do not have Feeds, yet there is only one mention of this in the entire novel, and possibly the only reason why it was even known is that Violet’s parents did not have Feeds, and this point would certainly only be brought up by Violet.
At the beginning of the novel there are news headings about tense foreign issues, and as the story progresses the headings begin to show that there is a pressing possibility of a worldwide war. This never enters into the conversation or the minds of any of the characters the novel; they are too busy with the latest episode of Oh? Wow! Thing! and shopping trend to be bothered with this. Late in the novel there start to be news headings of riots happening all throughout America, but these headings claim that no one knows what these riots are about.
Even though there is unrest in their own country and searching to find information about it is even closer than their fingertips, no one but Violet ever brings this up once, and that one conversation about it was very short. It is clear throughout the novel that all the people in America who do have a Feed feel completely superior to all of the people who do not have one for whatever reason. This is a mislead sense of supremacy, because, in fact, they have given up many of the attributes which make the human race special.
People are now almost completely cookie cutter with no one daring or even being able to step out from the norm and have thereby lost their personhood. Real school has been deemed unnecessary, and as a result people are more ignorant and stupid than ever. Finally, people are unable to live outside their own head and cannot be bothered with issues outside of their social circle. These faults caused by the overuse of technology and the complete kowtow to the power of corporations and consumerism are relatable to our society today.
Although we obviously will not accept lesions caused by industrial waste and are normally not completely blind to foreign issues, there is most certainly a large parallel between our faults and the faults of the characters of Feed. I’m confident in saying that no one desires to be compared with the characters in Feed, so Anderson’s novel certainly gives a harsh and necessary warning to our culture today.