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Why Ashok Banker chose to go offline

Well I had posted earlier on how Ashok Banker’s presence gave readers like us an opportunity to connect directly. He recently commented on the post:

My joining Twitter was not as a means of ’social networking’ but simply an experiment in a new form of writing. As you probably saw during the brief time I spent Twittering, I was more interested in the technical challenges posed by the limitation of 140 characters, rather than networking. The same applied to blogging and other online means of communication and self-expression.

Due to the attention focussed on my microblogging and blogging, I’ve since chosen to go completely offline. I’ve shut down my blog, Twitter feed, Friendfeed, etc, and am going offline indefinitely. Just thought you should know since it now makes this blogpost irrelevant!

I was dismayed and commented back:

that’s a radical decision you’ve taken, however for your many fans who feel connected to you thanks to these media I hope indefinite does not mean ‘never’

And he (I can only guess it was him) responded:

Hey Gautam, well, that’s the problem. There shouldn’t be writers and fans, we’re all writers on such platforms and should be all equal. The moment there are writers and ‘names’, it’s a failure of the system. I’m sorry but after seeing the way most bloggers shamelessly abuse the medium to promote themselves and their work instead of genuinely writing something worthwhile, I realized that blogging and microblogging have also become tools to crass commercialism. The only way out for people who genuinely want to write and not merely self-promote is to remain unknown and invisible. Hence my deletion of my blog and my presence from all other social networking sites. If and when I do resume, it will be anonymously and the moment I have ‘fans’ or a ‘name’ that means its time to stop or move on again.

I just feel very strongly about these issues. In protest, I’m not using my name here.

I take my hat off to Ashok to stick so much to his principles, but I think he’s missing an essential point here. When we participate in social media – we are not primarily writers. Writing is an act of love for most of us, but we have different day jobs. However Ashok Banker will always be known as a writer primarily of the Ramayana series. It’ll be interesting to see if and when he comes back online in an anonymous avatar – whether people react differently to him – or whether his quality of writing will stand out without the weight of his reputation.

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