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The Asocial Networking - Book Review


By Harsh Joshi

Good literature doesn’t tell the story of the past or of the future. However, it tells the story of the present in a manner that can be interpreted in both ways.

The book ‘The Asocial Networking: Musings On The Real & Online Worlds’ is akin to the vision of the compound eye. It is a book which presents itself in many different bodies of texts, all essentially separate and still linked by the fabric of networking both online and offline. It views our world (that of networking and that of the Earth at large as well) from an angle that is sometimes removed, allowing it to view the world a few years down the line and to see or project its form after a couple of centuries. On the other hand it also dives into our personal space in the present, highlighting what we all do online and interpreting it’s implications and the reasons behind those interactions found in the aptly dubbed ‘real world’.

As the author Dhiraj Kumar says, “For an addict like myself it means multiplying my entire lifespan by two adding a windfall gain to my longevity” -- the book tries and succeeds to a fair extent in breaking down social networking into personalized niches, into whys and whats of behaviour and explaining why Facebook and other such sites as Twitter, Orkut, LinkedIn and MySpace are gaining popularity or ever held popularity. The book holds true the notion that the essential reason behind their widespread usage is their tendency to provide instant gratification. A few articles allude to and challenge the much believed misconception that Social Networking by itself helps make new friends and also speaks of the development of interpersonal interactions over the ‘Public Space’, all thanks to social networking sites. The book is a pseudo-repository of the things that irk most of us who partake in social networking and things that ought to be done, rules that need be followed or at least prescribed to. (Heavens why?! Rules are everywhere already!) Dhiraj also points out in his first book the motives behind people’s actions online and compares the exchange of likes and comments as similar to the barter system that once existed and that Dhiraj postulates will exist in the future.

Largely the book deals with the happenings of social networking but it loses track sometimes, going out on a limb to speak of issues ranging from the future of very current and in vogue technologies, to the future implications of society’s materialistic and consumerist tendencies in the present thereby projecting a future which is in the vein of minimalist theories, the denizens of which lack any and all attraction towards technological advancements and indulge in the most basic of needs relating to nature and nurture. Dhiraj projects a future quite unlike our present, which works on the principles of monopoly (or oligopoly), resource-driven growth, high individualism and modulation of education, technology and individual ability which has started to appear already in our society especially in the field of education.

The book provides a perhaps much needed ‘Indian’ perspective of networking -- not that it cannot appeal to an international readership but certain aspects that make it Indian. For instance, this passage imagined in the context of Moonh-Dikhai:

“Mr. A: What does your son do?
Mr. B: He is a computer engineer

Mr. A: I am fed up with these computer engineers. In my own family, 90% of people are computer engineers…If you know somebody who has not seen a computer or used a digital device, then please let me know.

Mr. B: I am very sorry ji. I too am fed up with this computer culture!”

The author: Dhiraj Kumar
On the whole, ‘The Asocial Networking: Musings On The Real & Online Worlds’ is a good effort on Dhiraj’s part towards self-appraisal and towards understanding the driving force behind the compulsion that most of us feel, myself included to network on the internet. To his renown he was able to express the demise of Facebook’s valuation fairly before it’s IPO in Feb 2012 and the idea that even though Facebook might decline social networking whether online or offline is here to stay.{A remarkable observation favoring offline networking to its online counterpart on Pg. 137 reads: “Smileys are just too terse and inhuman to give expression to all the human emotions I wish to see from my friends”}.

That being said, I feel it is pertinent to mention that the impact of the book is marred very much by overuse of phrases and general repetition and many typographical and grammatical errors that should have been avoided and would increase the appeal of the book if so revised in subsequent editions. I do congratulate Dhiraj Kumar on a wonderful first effort and wish him luck for all his future endeavors.

 

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