Miss Malini is certainly a name you have heard of before. But I felt even more connected to this lovely lady, as she took me, the reader down memory lane – back to the good old days of ICQ and when asking someone “ASL?” was the norm. This was long before we became Insta-influencers and thought it perfectly sane to share advice about the various shades of baby poop and how to wash diapers. How far have we walked down the digital revolution lane! In her latest book ‘Under the Influence’ Miss Malini talks of the perils we all face when we choose to live digital lives and are faced with our dreaded TROLLS. Not a stranger to this phenomenon, Miss Malini offers practical solutions on ‘How to Survive and Thrive Online.’

I received a copy of Miss Malini’s ‘Under the Influence’ as part of Blogchatter’s Book Review program. I was excited to read this book because it also kind of coincided with my intended return to social media and micro-influencing since my hiatus a few years ago. But even after this intention I had been hesitating to go all guns blazing on my gram, because I worried about being another fish in the sea, seeming desperate (read: older now), and biggest of all – could I handle the negative comments, criticisms, silent judgements and the dreaded trolls and lest we forget – “I wanna fraandship” types.

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‘Under the Influence’ turned out to be that sympathetic shoulder where I could cry about the good old days (go as far back as ICQ, MSN chat & then Orkut & you know the rest. Still lamenting about losing all those brilliant Orkut testimonials I had gathered!) and howl about how everyone is so mean and judgmental today – I mean, I will admit, I do read some posts purely for the comments (and am chuckling, no! rolling in laughter till the wee hours of morning.)

‘Under the Influence’ by Miss Malini, essentially talks about behaving better online. It addresses the terrible threat from trolls, the concept of cancel culture, threats of death – rape – acid attacks (this gives me shivers), and how one can deal with it. Peppered with lots of live examples of situations that Miss Malini has found herself in and those of her friends, industry peers, this book shocks and awes the reader to the extent to which invisible demons can make life hell for you.

What hurt most and it’s no surprise, was that women are more at the receiving end of the stick when it comes to getting butchered online. I mean yes even men do, everyone who has a POV about any topic is bound to be met with some anti-POVs and ridicule. But women get it simply because – they are women. Sending lewd pics in DMs, constant requests for dates or meets, rape threats (I mean what the he#$? You know rape is bad and so you attack a person with a rape threat. But you are ok to perform this act yourself? Seriously, ghar mein maa behen nahi hai kya?) I know a very senior corporate official who shut down her Instagram quite unexpectedly and almost overnight because of the date requests she received from kids younger than her son. She was alarmed and shocked at how unabashed kids today were.

The author, Miss Malini brings so many themes to the fore and builds conviction and credibility around them by including research article snippets, testimonials from experts such as mental health experts, cyber crime professionals and other internetizens. That’s one aspect which I truly loved about this book. It is well researched, backs information with real happenings from across the world and lastly leaves you with a tool-kit of sorts. Confused? Let me explain – without too many spoilers (if that’s possible?)

What do you do with an online troll? Do you ignore, sink into depression, delete your account or do you report, block, name and shame or do you wage war? This is the crux of the book – an attempt to build a community, a collective mindset of #ignorenomoreonline – so that .. drumrolls, we all survive, thrive and shine online. I truly do hope that Miss Malini does more with this effort – the book + online campaigns + building a community +, +, +, is able to truly make the internet (now the world in a way) a kinder and more empathetic place.

I can’t leave without talking about how cleverly this book has been written – there are several activities for you to do, quizzes to fill, this or thats, 30 day challenges, do this and tag me online etc that it makes it so much fun and well REAL. I mean, a book about the internet and social media and not involving social media would have been so ironic, no? Nicely done, Miss M. 🙂

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Parting thought – ever since I finished reading the book – this imagery is still sitting in my head and it’s not so pretty. There are several references to Black Mirror (and similar docus and podcasts in her book) and we have all been alarmed and disturbed by some episode of BM or the other. But what I did not realize till now is the reason they called it Black Mirror. No spoilers – go read the book to know why!! I’m still getting a chill down my spine!

You can buy this book from Amazon – here’s the link > ‘Under the Influence’ by Miss Malini Agarwal

Before you go – You should also read this post of mine from way back in 2018 where I wrote about ‘Influencer Moms’.