Behind a Screen to IRL

Tweets, retweets, status updates, likes, and sharing all at the tap of a button. In a world of online interactions, we are all bodily removed from other people while simultaneously connected to them and apprised of their every action. So what becomes of the real world? That space is also the title of Nikesh Shukla’s novel, Meatspace, which is fraught with consequences for both digital and physical actions.

Kitab is a new author whose first book was recently released, but he’s had a series of unfortunate events in his life that have him in a downward spiral of depression and digital reliance. Fired for writing his book at work, struggling with book sales, and his girlfriend leaving him drives Kitab to spending his time in his flat with his brother/roommate Aziz. While googling random things online, Aziz and Kitab decide to get tattoos and also stumble upon their doppelgangers. Interacting with doppelgangers online is one thing, but once confronted in meatspace, their lives get interesting in a way that doesn’t translate well in the nebulous digital ether and causes confusion for all involved.

The narrative is eerily resonate with contemporary audiences who seem to be solely driven by their online personas and status (and it’s times like these that I wholeheartedly embrace my lack of a smartphone to stay “connected” 24/7). The story developed quite naturally, at least until the ultimate intervention that leads Kitab to reevaluate his life; they way that the confrontation occurs felt as if it was plopped down as the story needed to get wrapped up. The confrontation and reveal of the psychological aspect of the narrative could have happened a bit more organically than Kitab’s ex-girlfriend and father suddenly showing up at his flat. Similarly, the aftermath could have been rather interesting to explore further. In the book’s structure, the alternating perspectives offered by Aziz’s blog and Kitab’s narration was enjoyable and demonstrated the two sides of the screen in online life, trolls and all.

Overall, I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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