Social media, once you’ve breached a certain follower threshold, is like a nonstop party begging for your attendance.
For some folks, that threshold is a few thousands followers. For others, it’s tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands. I don’t say any of this to garner your sympathy or even your concern, but knowing there are people banging down the doors to your social media replies is a brain breaker. It can represent a permanent removal from the Now. You are Forever Elsewhere. It's all so deeply unnatural.
I hate social media. I also owe my career to it and sincerely enjoy posting my thoughts on sports and movies and music and parenting and anything else I encounter in the offline world. I like being heard because I am imbued with the supreme confidence of a white man in the United States. Getting attention for my opinions tickles all the right parts of my brain; social media is like booze in that way. But again – and I can’t stress this enough – I despise social media. It’s quite the conundrum – one I do not particularly enjoy.
I doubt I’m alone in my white-knuckled resistance to the Never Ending Party. I’ll sit in my office chair and listen to my kid talk about school or some weird thing they saw on YouTube or something the dog did or ate or shit on, and with every fiber of my being I will try not to look at the screen before me – the party raging on, begging me to join and have a good time. Even when I muster the resistance, I know my children can sense my distraction. Kids are good at that: They can sense when we are truly engaged. It’s a vanishing skill in this god forsaken century.
Everyone, I think, reaches their breaking point with the Never Ending Party, with being perpetually logged on, checking one last post, one last picture or video, one last link before you set down your phone or close your laptop and force yourself to Be Offline. A party is fun because it’s an occasional event, a nice and fun and sometimes chaotic little break for the rigors of the everyday life of a worker or a parent or whatever you happen to be. A party is something to look forward to and has a beginning and an end. You look back on that party the day after or the week after or five years after and you reminisce about how fun it was, what a nice change of pace it represented.
A party was not meant to be perpetual. I think about biographies of rockers from the 60s and 70s and the harrowing tales of 72-hour parties in Miami or LA or New York or Berlin or Paris and how, after a while, these rock and rollers – the ones who survived – knew they would die if they continued with the Never Ending Party. It was not a matter of if, but when. So they stopped – or mostly stopped – and did their damndest to make good music and live a decent life without the allure of the Never Ending Party dangling before their dilated pupils. They weren’t always happy, but they were alive and certainly healthier than they were in their days of the Never Ending Party.
I recently reached my breaking point with the Never Ending Party. I left the party and stared at a tree in my backyard.
It's Called Accelerationism And It Fucking Sucks
I’ve read a lot about accelerationism lately because quasi-fascist tech bros are into it right now, and for some reason I am forever infatuated with the ideology of Silicon Valley thought leaders – probably because that ideology usually curdles into far-right politics.
The same folks who duped millions into buying dumb and possibly nazi-adjacent NFTs in 2021 and who convinced people to buy a bunch of fake computer money are now obsessed with the concept of “effective accelerationism,” which “argues that technology, particularly computer technology, and capitalism, particularly the most aggressive, global variety, should be massively sped up and intensified – either because this is the best way forward for humanity, or because there is no alternative,” according to The Guardian’s Andy Beckett.
The driving force behind accelerationism ties in with the tech bros’ dedication to optimization. It’s a way of thinking that has only one outcome: Genocide. The technologists' desire to perfect humanity and the world is not virtuous, but vile, even evil. They may talk a good game about making the world a better place, but the language of optimization is the language of elimination. Those pushing the effective accelerationist creed are running on a parallel track. And if you don’t believe me, or remain skeptical that accelerationism is a fascist Trojan Horse, consider the rhetoric of fascist carnival baker Steve Bannon or madman billionaire Peter Thiel, both of whom preach accelerationism above all else.
In his profile of prominent accelerationists – many of whom sound totally fucking crazy – Beckett from The Guardian distills the accelerationist dream of a world sped up on its way to oblivion (many of the world’s most prominent accelerationists make no secret of the ultimate goal of their twisted tech-nightmare ideology: “Disorder must increase... Any [human] organization is a mere detour in the inexorable death-flow,” British philosopher Nick Land said in the 1990s, excoriating politics as a stubborn impediment of accelerationism).
Accelerationists favor automation. They favor the further merging of the digital and the human. They often favor the deregulation of business, and drastically scaled-back government. They believe that people should stop deluding themselves that economic and technological progress can be controlled. They often believe that social and political upheaval has a value in itself. Accelerationism, therefore, goes against conservatism, traditional socialism, social democracy, environmentalism, protectionism, populism, nationalism, localism and all the other ideologies that have sought to moderate or reverse the already hugely disruptive, seemingly runaway pace of change in the modern world. … At any one time, there have probably only been a few dozen accelerationists in the world. Yet for decades longer than more orthodox contemporary thinkers, accelerationists have been focused on many of the central questions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries: the rise of China; the rise of artificial intelligence; what it means to be human in an era of addictive, intrusive electronic devices; the seemingly uncontrollable flows of global markets; the power of capitalism as a network of desires; the increasingly blurred boundary between the imaginary and the factual; the resetting of our minds and bodies by ever-faster music and films; and the complicity, revulsion and excitement so many of us feel about the speed of modern life.”
The resetting of the mind and body by “ever fast music and films” – and, of course, more addictive and all-consuming social media platforms – resonated with me in the worst possible way. Everything, it seems, has sped up during my adulthood, and I don’t think it’s just because I’ve taken on more responsibility (and distractions) with age. Culture moves so fast now that a massive blockbuster movie that would have dominated the national consciousness a generation ago comes and goes with a blink. Politics takes on different forms all the time, with mind-breaking speed, leaving us with a politics that is largely impossible to grasp and analyze and understand. As soon as you think you know something about culture or politics, it has shifted yet again, and yet again, you know nothing. You’re back to zero and your previous knowledge means nothing.
It’s not only the right wing that has embraced accelerationism. A handful of French philosophers in the 60s and 70s conceded that accelerationism is the only way forward for humanity because we are first and foremost pleasure-seeking beings and capitalism – as evil and crushing as it can be – was the best, fastest path toward satisfying those desires and creating new desires to be fulfilled as quickly as humanly possible. During America’s Flower Power era, European leftists had conceded that capitalism was the only way forward – the only natural state –and that the system must be quickened to meet the needs of all people, not just the ruling class and their hangers on.
Make no mistake though. The belief among accelerationists that technology can and should bulldoze all traditional human foundations, including politics and government itself, is a libertarian wet dream with horrifying outcomes for everyday people – folks who don’t mind working if that work can be traded for a decent wage and a somewhat comfortable life that allows them to enjoy their friends and families before they die.
Which brings me back to the tree: Feeling utterly overwhelmed by the demands and allure of social media, I placed my phone on my office desk and walked outside one late afternoon. I had no particular plan but soon found myself looking at a hulking, 40-foot tree on the very edge of my backyard. The thing swayed in a gentle breeze. I was overcome with jealousy that this tree simply existed. It had nothing to do. No one to see. It moved with the wind, served as temporary home to migrating birds, and told me wordlessly that it would be here, in this spot, long after I’m dead and gone.
It struck me in that moment that I had a choice in all this. I could choose not to think, but to experience. It was an option I had never considered, and frankly, didn’t know existed. It was a strange and revolutionary idea for me, someone who had never considered stopping my thought-flow. To not mull over whatever thoughts were bombarding my mind has been a natural state for me for as long as I can recall. This tree had no thoughts; maybe I should follow suit.
There is and probably never will be a concerted political or cultural counter to the disorienting speed of technological advancement. That leaves us with little moments of resistance against so-called acclerationism: Observing a tree, being quiet, being bored, letting someone talk to us without interruption, listening to a long song – not just hearing the song, but listening to it, enjoying its subtleties. These are tiny acts of revolution against the terror of accelerating technologies that have made life so fragmented and difficult to understand.
Be the tree and resist, if only for a moment.
Follow Denny Carter on X at @CDCarter13 and on BlueSky at @cdcarter13.bsky.social.