Are We “Amusing Ourselves To Death”?

Cultural critic Neil Postman and author of Amusing Ourselves to Death worried that we might be creating a Huxleyan Brave New World — unappealing to an outside observer yet engaging and fun for the participant. Contrast this with an Orwellian 1984 style future in which both the observer and participant recognize the situation is objectively awful.

I watched my daughter scrolling her bottomless Instagram feed after dinner last night. We both cackled the “cakes that badly suck ass” meme. 

And it was difficult not to flip from one disturbing, captivating pratfall of Marco Mori’s rubbery, fat humans to the next—bone-snapping inertia transformed into grotesque, visual poetry.

We were engaged and laughing. The images were well-produced. 

What’s the problem?

Is this any different than decades ago when I’d thumb through a Calvin & Hobbes compendium and shove the funniest strip’s in front of my brothers’ faces.

It is different. 

The publisher wasn’t watching me interact with the book and switching out Calvin & Hobbes slightly longer-form content with one-panel Far Side cartoons to keep the pages turning as I began to tire.

When I put it down, the book didn’t call out for me to come back with some type of notification.

My book wasn’t loaded with ads. And it didn’t ask me to create content that it would sell as another book and reap 100% of the revenue.

And in my world, the book ended.


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