Colleen, the main character in this novella by Natasha Stagg, is in her early 20s and working at a mall signing people up to take surveys about various products. The whole thing is clearly ridiculous, as people lie to qualify for the surveys (and the payment survey takers receive) and Natasha’s colleagues lie to get people signed up and qualified. Her whole life, job, relationships, and so on, is purposeless. And then she gets famous, and it’s not much better.

Colleen’s fame comes from getting involved with an online influencer named. They began interacting online and then developed a following as a couple that led them to travel the world, meeting fans at sponsored events. And, in a lot of ways, it’s just as fake as the surveys. Colleen’s feelings for Jim are real — she gets extremely jealous when he starts dating another online personality — but the online performance isn’t necessarily the whole story. It started out as authentic, but turned into something for an audience and for sponsors.

A lot of what the book delves into about the difference between public personas and private angst and about the hazards of monetizing yourself is true, but not especially profound these days, or even in 2016 when the book was published. And it’s written in a sort of bland, disconnected style that made it hard to really enjoy or appreciate. I mostly finished it because it was short! I suspect the style is meant to convey something about Colleen losing her agency to commerce, but I think she’s so bland from the start that it’s hard to feel much about what she goes through.

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1 Response to Surveys

  1. lauratfrey says:

    I was interested in this book when it came out, because I’m in the market research industry, but it’s not the easiest to find and I kind of forgot about it. I follow a lot of NYC writers and “art scene” people on social media and the author is always at those parties, and they all seem fairly vapid, so the bland style sounds about right!

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