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Social Acceleration


"That twitchiness - that constant low-level anxiety at being communicatively unstimulated - seems so normal now that we may be slightly disconcerted when it's absent."

Alan Jacobs' book Breaking Breaking Bread With the Dead opens with the recognition that what we are all facing now is unprecedented in the history of humanity. The ability to communicate with practically anyone in the world, instantaneously, and the growing inability of each of us to shut it off.


This low-level hum we have probably all encountered at some point (take your phone out and put it on the table upside down for 3 minutes without looking). Anything? Wondering what might be going on? It's an experiment we can all easily attempt and see whether the anxiety gets to us. Blaise Pascal's quote comes to mind: "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."


Today that may resemble something like "...miseries derive from not being able to disconnect from the world while trying to sit alone."


Jacobs' also notes this idea of social acceleration. Which is the idea I want to bring forth to you today (you may or may not have heard of it). A theory brought to light by German sociologist Hartmut Rosa, social acceleration is the feeling that everything is accelerating around us at an unprecedented speed while we "feel trapped in our social structure and life pattern, imprisoned, deprived of meaningful choice."


What a fascinating description of what we seem to be seeing around us. Growing levels of anxiety and depression while social connections fade despite being more readily available than ever.


Having read this idea I went out and picked up Hartmut Rosa's book Social Acceleration so I hope to bring you more thoughts/ideas on this in the future. How do we hope to overcome this apparent imbalance? Stay tuned.



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