In M. T. Anderson’s “The Feed,” the world in which Titus and Violet live is one controlled by technology – one cannot function without the presence of technology, more specifically the feed. The feed seems absolutely essential and to imagine life without it is impossible for Titus because he, like most people, had the feed implanted when he was an infant. This is how the book addresses the effects of technology on a society. The main question that is asked is this: at what point does technology being having an adverse effect on a society and how do you recognize it?
The use of proper language in this world is not encouraged or even really taught in schools. Education and learning is not something that is necessary for their society to “function” because any information you would ever want is in the feed. Individual knowledge is of no use if everyone else has access to it as well.
“I can read. A little. I kind of protested it in School(TM). On the grounds that the silent ‘E’ is stupid.”
This seems like a great thing – but the reality is that is creates a society of people who are completely dependent on the feed because they cannot do things for themselves. In fact, Titus was surprised when he learned that Violet could write with a pen because this was not something he was ever taught because it was not necessary with the assistance of the feed. Their poor education shows through in their vocabulary as well. The vast majority of the population uses extremely simple sentence structure and words such as “like” and “dude” and “unit” are a big part of their vernacular.
Another theme throughout the book is the lack of resistance to the feed’s oppression. Society, including Titus, is obsessed with doing what is considered cool. The feed markets things that will appeal to the masses, and because people are so controlled by the feed, they have extremely similar interests:
“…It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone. And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple. So the corps make everything even simpler. And it goes on and on.”
It is hard to make out where the feed ends and real thoughts begin. They are so interwoven that they are basically the same thing. Original thought and individualized internal dialogue are not regarded highly. The general population is on the same feed so that they can communicate with each other without having to speak out loud. One of the central ideas of the feed is that it makes you who you are – the feed knows you better than you know yourself:
“Everything that goes on, goes on on the feed…. But the braggest thing…is that it knows everything you want and hope for, sometimes before you even know what those things are. It can tell you how to get them, and help you make buying decisions that are hard.”
Most people see this as a good thing because the feed keeps them from having to make decisions for themselves. However, that prevents people from developing an inner sense of self. They blindly follow the feed instead of trying to think through something on their own. This reverts back to the lack of basic knowledge and an uninformed population. This allows the government to control their citizens without them even realizing it. Violet points out:
‘”No one with feeds thinks about it,’ she said. ‘When you have the feed all your life, you’re brought up not to think about things. Like them never telling you that it’s a republic and not a democracy. It’s something that makes me angry, what people don’t know about these days. Because of the feed, we’re raising a nation of idiots. Ignorant, self-centered idiots.’”
This is the most alarming side effect of the feed because it gives the government free rein. M. T. Anderson is commenting that these citizens are slaves to the feed and to their government. They have no chance of escaping the confines they have found themselves in, no matter how hard they try (exemplified in Violet’s unsuccessful fight against the feed). So, Anderson is pointing out that this system is something that they should want to fight while also acknowledging their helplessness against the feed.