Letter-Essay #9: Feed by M.T. Anderson

We recently finished reading Feed by M.T. Anderson, who is apparently a terrible swimmer. Feed was a National Book Award finalist in the year following its release, and is taught in schools to show the dangers of consumerism. We chose this book because Rene had already read and enjoyed it, and Sydney thought it looked interesting.


The book is about a guy named Titus and his friends, who all live in a distant-ish American future that is controlled by consumerism and the feed, a chip that most people decide to get surgically inserted into their heads as infants. It’s like Facebook crossed with Google on steroids. You have access to the entire internet, but the entire internet has access to you, meaning that advertisers know your thoughts and target ads to you based on them. Titus meets a girl, called Violet, who is different from most. She intentionally confuses the feed’s algorithm, buying completely unrelated things and avoiding allowing her behavior to fall into a predictable trend as much as possible, lest the advertisers gain control of her. But, her feed begins to malfunction after being hacked, and as she and Titus form a relationship, she grows closer and closer to death. She loses memory, her body parts stop working, and The emotional weight on Titus becomes too much for him to bear.


We were surprised by the heavy use of slang in the book. It’s full of words like “like, um, okay” as well as made-up future slang like “unit, brag, meg”, as well as others. At first it was annoying, because it sort of interrupted the flow of the book, but over time we began to appreciate it.


We really liked the dramatic irony in the book. We know that the feed is destroying the world, but Titus and the rest stay ignorant, intentionally. This holds a mirror up to how people would rather put their head in the sand than see the ugly truth.


One part of the book that we really liked was when Titus chats his girlfriend Violet after spending a day tricking the Feed’s advertising algorithm on page 105. “ ‘Look at everything I got from the feed. It’s going crazy with everything we looked at today. It’s trying to work for me.’ This perky voice on her feed said, ‘Hi! I’m Nina, your personal FeedTech shopping assistant! Tired of that gross-out smell in your mouth? Try FreshGorge Glottal Deodorant – your boyf will thank you big-time! Hey, Violet Durn, what a skip kinda day you had! You go shop, girl! Here’s some more great info about all the brag stuff you asked about!’ Violet started to forward me things. There were sites for endoscopy kits, and she sent them in flurries. Once they started coming, they started calling others to them, and I could feel them doing that call, and they were all around me. They came to us. It was like they were lots of friendly butterflies, and we were smeared with something, and they kept coming and coming, and their wings were winking beautifully, and more and more came. And they were landing on our fingers, and our lips, and our eyes, opening and closing? And we were going -Woah! woah! Woah! It was crazy”. What we enjoyed about this passage was the fact that at first glance, it sounds really beautiful, but if you read it again, you feel a little uneasy knowing that those “butterflies” are targeted ads trying to pin them down. It’s a strong contrast.


We really liked how the book showed little bits and pieces of the feed at the ends of chapters. It shows how overwhelming the feed is, and how easily important news showing reality gets covered up.


We rate this a 9.5/10

-Rene and Sydney

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