According to German critical theorist Hartmut Rosa, accelerated technological developments have driven the acceleration in the pace of change in social institutions.
Noticeable acceleration began more than two centuries ago, during the Industrial Revolution. But this acceleration has itself accelerated. Guided by neither logical objectives nor agreed-upon rationale, propelled by its own momentum, and encountering little resistance, acceleration seems to have begotten more acceleration, for the sake of acceleration.
To Rosa, this acceleration eerily mimics the criteria of a totalitarian power: 1) it exerts pressure on the wills and actions of subjects; 2) it is inescapable; 3) it is all-pervasive; and 4) it is hard or almost impossible to criticize and fight.
At the heart of the web’s self-destruction is contagious media: crazy cat pics and the entire Buzzfeedification of the internet.
Every site, even reputable ones, raced to the bottom because celebrity sideboob and stupid human and pet tricks drove clicks.
Writes Tim Wu in The Attention Merchants:
“Contagious media is the kind of media you immediately want to share with all your friends. This requires that you take pleasure in consuming the media but also pleasure in the social process of passing it on.”
“Contagious media is a form of pop conceptual art” in which “the idea is the machine that makes the art (LeWitt, 1967) and the idea is interesting to ordinary people.”
The clickbait craziness spawned an albatross of more ridiculous news, some of it fake news. As Zeynep Tufekci says in her TED Talk, “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.”
And now we’re living with the repercussions of confused algorithms and companies like Facebook and Twitter avoiding responsibility.
We are psychologically vulnerable to social media games. If we want stupid, we’ll get stupid. And anything that requires some thought and effort will fade away.
I’m sure you’ve seen Angela Merkel’s brilliant staredown at Donald Trump across the interweb. The photo was taken by German government photographer Jesco Denzel, who also won World Press Photo of the year in 2017 for the image in Lagos.
Extraordinary eye for timing and composition.
Inattentive, we let the details slip right through our heads.
We are in a state of continuous partial attention, whipped around by facts, fake news, hyperbole, and reality.
The foreign invaders monopolize our “private” profiles and manipulate the entire public sphere into tribes that all think and see alike.
We turn a blind eye to the pleasant rhythm of dissent while also marching to the beat of our own drum.
To stop admiring our own words and lookalikes, and to start interrogating our own ideas.
The tranquil flood of information died after CNN introduced the 24-hour news cycle. But the internet brushed on a new type of disorder onto the information canvass that prevents us from thinking straight.
We consumed mindlessly, eating more than we could chew. Our brains got overloaded, dulled out, memories stymied by Google and images that told us everything we needed to know.
The good news is that while no one reads anymore, those who do are choosing quality over crap. Premium content is back because it’s trustworthy, well-written, detailed, and shareable.
Of course, the non-traditional sources are there like me. I blog to step back from the chaos and to absorb its connections. I refuse to let the Kardashians and other buffoonery colonize my brain. Blogging is like self-medication, but you can easily do it with a private journal or spending five still minutes reflecting on the day behind or ahead.
The Pilgrims didn’t have to deal with attention seeking missiles, misinformation, and click-baiting darts. Otherwise, they might have stayed home assuming the worst. Now offers the chance to dance with the intrusions by putting novelty aside and embracing the imagination for periods at a time.
“We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.” — David Lynch
Less news equals more news, squashing stimuli along the way.
We worship celebrities like they’re the new Gods but they’re as fallible as we are.
We obsess with the famous for being famous. First, we had reality tv and then social media gave us the Kardashians and Trump.
Is this how the media wants to harvest our attention and chip away at human decency?
Reporters will continue to dupe a distracted public with attention-seeking missiles. The buzzfeedication of the web has taken over.
We are stuck in click-bait culture
If a good journalist is supposed to write what they see and leave it to the world to interpret, then they better start choosing better subjects. At least more interesting ones.
Let’s start with this rule: No more graduation speeches to those who were famous for 15 minutes.
The race to the bottom begins when what you think you know, you know. I am once again reminded of this Seth Godin quotes from All Marketers Are Liars:
The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.
The stuff we want to hear sticks.
Confirmation bias and stereotyping are just the appetizers. Beware a blind spot, or better yet, the ostrich effect.
Biases are shortcuts. The truth never expires.
ORIGIN: The notion of cognitive biases was first introducted by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the early 1970s. Their research paper, ‘Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases‘ in the Science journal has provided the basis of almost all current theories of decision-making and heuristics. Professor Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002 after further developing the ideas and applying them to economics.
Venezuelan photographer Ronaldo Schemidt won World Press Photo of the Year for his image of the “Burning Man.”
The picture shows a fleeing José Víctor Salazar Balza engulfed in flames at an anti-government protest in Venezuela on May 3, 2017.
“It all took just a few seconds, so I didn’t know what I was shooting,” Schemidt told the British Journal of Photography. “I was moved by instinct, it was very quick. I didn’t stop shooting until I realized what was going on. There was somebody on fire running towards me.”
The photographer currently resides in Mexico where he shoots football matches and more recently covered the Mexico City earthquake aftermath. Check out more images on the Getty website.
In some rarely-seen footage from 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. talks about the new phase of the Civil Rights movement for “genuine equality.” For 26 minutes, he’s just as eloquent and sincere as you imagined:
“It is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps…And many Negroes, by the thousands and millions, have been left bootless … as the result of a society that deliberately made his color a stigma…”
King was assassinated 11 months later. Today marks the 50th anniversary of his death.