A re-cap of 2023...
thought digest, 12.23.2023
Christmas and the new year are both upon us…
This has and hasn’t been a big year for me. On the one hand, I achieved a number of personal milestones. Professionally, interpersonally, financially.
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But on the other, it doesn’t feel like I did for some reason.
It might be because I’m so inured to Internet time. My world moves fast—incredibly fast—but the physical world is so much slower. My priorities are more physical than digital these days. But when you’re used to Internet time, you feel stagnancy when there isn’t any. A close friend of mine recently pointed out that I think things are over if they’re not constantly escalating. And more saliently, because of the Internet, my threshold for escalation is high.
I’ve conditioned myself to understand the world like this:
Life starts to feel boring for the same reason some movies feel boring: there’s no clear narrative structure.
This, to me, is the crux of main character syndrome, as opposed to an unrelenting, histrionic desire for attention. The self-centeredness is secondary to wanting the comfort of a narrative. And besides, it should be evident by now that not everyone wants to be the main character. It’s only necessary that there’s a main character at all—a politician, a random person on social media, occasionally ourselves.
Constantly, I have to remind myself, we’re not owed the cycle of rising action-climax-falling action. Life simply is.
My writing in 2023
Hopefully I do myself justice here.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of some of the pieces I’ve published:
Among the Spiritual Psychotics (January), sort of about the rise of TikTok manifestation gurus, but really a meditation on the role of “emotional truth” online. Lying in the physical world and lying online are different because online, we’re all literature.
Computer Love (February), my favorite topic, the nature of mediated love, something I also explored a little bit in a piece about fictosexuality for UnHerd. (You can read the unedited draft of that, which contains some additional notes here.)
The Humans Who Live As Lab Rats (March), clinical trials can be a backdoor to people who need health insurance, but can’t afford it. You can read an unedited draft—which includes some extra anecdotes—of this same piece here.
We Need To Talk About Extreme Antinatalism (April), in 2021 and 2022, I wrote about a strange YouTube-native philosophy called efilism. In this piece, I explore efilism’s roots: antinatalism. I’m a strong believer that antinatalism, like New Atheism and Rationalism, is one of these ideologies that forms the bedrock of a lot of contemporary digital thought.
Most Reporters Are Internet Culture Reporters Who Don’t Know It Yet (May), it’s basically a Deeism at this point. You’re out of your gourd if you think any of us are talking about anything BUT conversations. Very few of us are tethered to the physical world. Reporters especially.
Who Does It Better: Google or Reddit? (May), in March, I visited Saudi Arabia and discovered they had a vibrant anime fandom. Even government officials love anime in Saudi Arabia. This is a topic I’d love to explore more in 2024.
The Black Manosphere Got There Long Before Andrew Tate (July), scratch a Manosphere influencer, and you’ll find talking points from the black community, that were born in response to the controversial 1965 Moynihan report. Don’t get me wrong, the Manosphere was definitely a response to the Sexual Revolution. But it has other antecedents, too.
Is AI Fueling Eating Disorder Content? (August), AI is morally ambiguous. We don’t think about it nearly enough—at least outside of the realm of fear-mongering.
Mimics Are Taking Over TikTok (August), people are deeply afraid of inauthencitiy, for what I suspect, are obvious reasons: artificial intelligence, the fear of getting lost in digital noise, et al. In this piece, I explore how that fear has manifested in digital folklore.
Television Isn’t Dead—Yet (October), I wrote about how TikTok, is, in its own way, a replacement for television. And not just because it’s video.
Fictional Soul, Human Body (November), a lot of rambling about Otherkin.
Afterglow (December), a short story about my childhood home that was published in The End.
Predictions for 2024
Abridged predictions this go around because I’m in the midst of compiling a full report with a couple of (much more prescient) friends. More on that soon.
Here are a few thoughts about the culture war to tide you over, though.
Many of these are progressions from last year:
The anti-woke center will move further right. “Racial differences” will become what “gender ideology” was this last half-decade.
The backlash against sex positivity from the anti-woke center will continue. Gender War content (e.g. Andrew Tate, Whatever pod, Pearl Davis) remains lucrative.
Relatedly, “porn-brain” is now a non-partisan issue in the mainstream as opposed to being confined to conservative foundations and think tanks.
That said, being trad has lost whatever cachet it had. It just doesn’t have bite anymore, and that was true for the lion’s share of 2023. So what happens next? MGTOW? WGTOW? Gender nihilism? Gender accelerationism? Whatever happens, tradwives and pro-natalism have left the station.
Speaking of contrarians, as predicted, the hipster/intellectual contrarian commentariat exhausted every possible reactionary pose in 2023. So what’s next? Everyone (okay, everyone who meets that description) finds his or her inner Richard Hanania. That’s why I think it’s 2024 is the year he goes from “rising star to the type of people who pay attention to this kind of thing” to bonafide cult following.
Transhumanism, and the larger question of what it means to be human, continues to grow as a prominent culture war fault line. Remember: techno-optimist vs. Big Tech vs. tech skeptic.
Bestiality, or more euphemistically, ”zoophilia,” emerges as a mainstream, digitally-inspired moral panic. And only partially because more people are fully convinced being an otherkin is the next frontier of identity weirdness.
Detransitioner became a salable, standalone identity for the right and anti-woke center between 2020-2023. A few non-partisan/leftist detransitioner personalities emerged in 2023, though. In 2024, it completely loses its partisan edge. You will no longer need to go to the GenSpec conference to discuss these issues.
The vanguard e-right—the true, uncommercialized fringes—will continue to become harsher. As once taboo topics are normalized, they will need to find new ways to gatekeep normies out.
And finally, you will never have to read about Dimes Square ever again. As you probably already know, it died in 2023.
But what replaces it? You’ll have to read the full report to find out.
Chicago-based book club, movie nights, and an in-person event on 1/20…
Please email me if you’d like to join the book club! We’ll be meeting in person, beginning on 1/27. The first book will be announced soon.
Movie nights are BACK for paid subscribers, on Discord. Our first movie of the year will be, at long last, the much teased Profile (2018), on 1/30 at 5pm CT/6pm ET. In 2024, we will be watching these movies together instead of separately.
I’m doing a reading in Chicago on 1/20. Stay tuned for more details.
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