Op-Ed: Decelerating Under the Accelerating Society

By: Elaina ’22
IB English A Language & Literature

“Hurry up, hurry up! Class ends already!” shouted Emily, rushing me to pack my notes and laptop inside my backpack. Then she strode out of the classroom, moving quickly to the next as if she was racing with time. 

This scene repeats itself several times a day, which was incomprehensible to me. We are keeping up the speed to get to the destination quicker, but after the arrival, what awaits us is just speeding up again. Classworks, presentations, conversations… we are trying to get everything done faster and faster so that we will be able to move on to another task. This process of acceleration never comes to an end. 

It’s not only to me as a student specifically, but to society as a whole. Our society is accelerating. As technology improves and competition increases these days, people pursue efficiency more than anything else. The fear of being left behind serves as an incentive to speed up in everyday life, ranging from fast food to social media. However, with these inventions to push us forward and win the race with time, our brain is filled up with the anxiety to “keep up the pace”. There is no space left for thinking and reflection, and we tend to forget about the process and our surroundings. 

Constantly speeding up is dangerous. But we are afraid to rest. 

Take fast food as an example, we consume it to reduce the “unnecessary” time spent on meeting our basic needs. As one of the leading brands of the fast-food culture, McDonald’s has increased the number of stores from around 30,000 to almost 40,000 from 2005 to 2020, according to Statista. This increase in the number of stores indicates that more and more people are pursuing a more “efficient” way of living. However, choosing to consume fast food sacrifices health at the same time. It can lead to various diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, according to the global Diabetes Community. Moreover, the packaging causes environmental damages. These harms to the human body and the earth were ignored under the constant urge to get faster.

On the other hand, the way of communication had also transformed into a much quicker way. Back in time, it took a week or even a month for a letter to get from one to another, with a long time period of waiting. Now, messages and news are communicated easily through social media, and several pieces of information can reach in just a blink of an eye. 

This seems like an advantage of the accelerating society, however, there are hidden consequences behind it too. With the overwhelming amount of information presented to us every day, the human brain is inclined to be attracted to shocking news with “novelty”. The news that will grab attention is usually the most exaggerated one. Words like “Shocking!” and “Latest News!” are presented boldly in the headline. 

With this in mind, it is not a surprise to know that “false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are”, according to a study done by Soroush Vosoughi, Sinan Aral, and Deb Roy, three researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. News with intriguing titles but false information are just like colorful but poisonous candy, they lure the audience into it with the fantasy world and blinds their eyes from the truth. This is a negative result of social media that is pursuing speed and efficiency — there is no time for the evaluation of news credibility. 

In order to grow and learn in an accelerating society, what we need is deceleration — we should slow down our pace. As ironic as it might sound, slowing down and relaxing allows us to restore energy to face another day, and not be knocked down by anxiety and pressure. This process of slowing down is not equivalent to being late to class or hand in work after due dates, but organizing time wisely so that the work will not be squeezed together, then slow down and relax during the time in between each scheduled event. 

Enjoy small, mundane moments by cooking food instead of eating out; learn about the world by carefully thinking and understanding the news that is presented to us. With the global pandemics, it is an opportunity for us to reorganize our pace. During quarantines when we are isolated, we have more time to reflect upon ourselves and our surroundings. It is time to take a rest and restart — let’s walk at a slow but steady pace. 

Citation

Rosa, Hartmut. “Social Acceleration.” Columbia University Press, Translated by Jonathan Trejo-Mathys,  

June 2015, http://cup.columbia.edu/book/social-acceleration/9780231148344

Dizikes, Peter. “Study: On Twitter, false news travels faster than true stories” MIT News, 8 March 2018, 

https://news.mit.edu/2018/study-twitter-false-news-travels-faster-true-stories-0308.

Editor. “Fast Food and Diabetes (Junk Food)”, The Global Diabetes Community, 15 January 2019, 

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/food/fast-food-and-diabetes.html

https://www.statista.com/statistics/219454/mcdonalds-restaurants-worldwide/

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