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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Gimme What I Want

I Know What I Want and I Want It Now!

Tweeting! Payroll advance! 
Speed dating!  Access 24/7 businesses!
Fast food! Microwaves! 24-hour news channels!
12 item-or-less checkout aisles! Instant scratch-off lottery tickets!
At-once Age Rewind cosmetics! Downloaded music purchases! Multitasking! 
Toddlers and even babies with cell phones, iPads and other tablet devices!
Helicopter parents hovering over their millennial children by intervening to solve every problem, buying them the latest in fashion and technology, and dishing out praise for even the smallest accomplishment!

“The short attention spans resulting from the quick interactions
will be detrimental to focusing on the harder problems,
and we will probably see a stagnation in many areas:
technology, even social venues such as literature.

"The people who will strive and lead the charge
will be the ones able to disconnect themselves
to focus on specific problems.”

-Alvaro Retana, technologist with Hewlett-Packard

Have you ever heard the term Liquid Modernity? Every social movement has its philosophy. Liquid Modernity is a term created by Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman for the present condition of the world, in contrast to the "solid" modernity that preceded it. This passage from "solid" to "liquid" modernity has created an unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, and this confronts consumers with situations they have to respond to in ways they have not encountered before.

Both social institutions and product histories no longer have time to solidify in order to serve as a frame of reference for long-term life plans. This motivates consumers to organise their lives in different ways. A life in which concepts like "career" and "progress" have become fluid, the lifestyle required is flexible and adaptable.

Consumers have learned to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. Instantaneous gratification is very important to millennials. What has this attainment caused?

Although people save time and may even be more productive in our accelerated world, the need for instant gratification raises concerns about our work ethic, social interactions, character development, even our mental health. Ronald Alsop writes, "Some people are so impatient and so driven by instant technology that they never unplug, never slow down. They don’t take time for contemplation and relaxation, and, according to some mental health professionals, they are at greater risk for addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, video games and the Internet." (Ronald J. Alsop, "Gotta Have It Now, Right Now," Notre Dame Magazine, Winter 2011-2012)

Kristin Dziadul said in a post on Social Media Today, an online community for PR and marketing professionals. “Many people criticize our age cohort because we are this way, but consider how you would respond to things if you grew up experiencing feedback or rewards after everything you did.”
(Ronald J. Alsop, "Gotta Have It Now, Right Now," Notre Dame Magazine, Winter 2011-2012)

Dziadul may be right about the new generation being inundated with instant gratification from birth, but the speedy rewards come at the expense of civility. For example, although it’s impolite and annoying to others, people these days routinely check their email and send texts in the middle of dinner with friends, during business meetings or while speakers make presentations at conferences. And, who hasn't had to be party to another person's intimate cell conversation in a semi-private setting?

The Future and Instant Gratification

What research findings are relevant to teens, technology, and human potential in 2020? At least one survey has shown some of the negative effects include a need for instant gratification and loss of patience.

The survey contends respondents who are young people in the under-35 age group -- the central focus of this research question -- shared concerns about changes in human attention and depth of discourse among those who spend most or all of their waking hours under the influence of hyperconnectivity.
Alvaro Retana has expressed concerns about humans’ future ability to tackle complex challenges.
Stephen Masiclat, a communications professor at Syracuse University, adds, “When the emphasis of our social exchanges shifts from the now to the next, and the social currency of being able to say ‘I was there first’ rises, we will naturally devalue retrospective reflection and the wisdom it imparts.” (Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie, "Millennials Will Benefit and Suffer Due to Their Hyperconnected Lives," Pew Internet, February 29 2012)

Students who participated in the survey tended to express concerns about their peers’ ability to get beyond short-burst connections to information. Melissa Ashner, a student at the College of William and Mary, observed, “People report having more difficulty with sustained attention (i.e., becoming immersed in a book). Today, we have very young, impressionable minds depending on technology for many things. It is hard to predict the ways in which this starves young brains of cognitive ability earned through early hands-on experiences."


*  The rise in childhood obesity, which further hinders cognitive function, due to the lack of direct, physical experience.

* An increase in the expectation of immediacy and decreased patience among people: people seeking "quick fixes" rather than taking their time to come to a conclusion or investigate an answer.

* A dependent society conditioned  into dependence on technology in ways that, if that technology suddenly disappears or breaks down, will render people functionally useless: individuals and society will lose resiliency.

* “Fast-twitch” wiring difficulties which include"

(a) People with much shorter attention spans,
(b) People who communicate directly with fewer niceties and and conversation skills,
(c) People who base discussions around Internet content and engage in pithy, opinion-based, and often only shared social media content as they buttress—rather than challenge—political, ideological, or artistic beliefs,
(d) People who increasingly rely on the first bit of information they find on a topic, assuming that they have found the ‘right’ answer, rather than using context and vetting/questioning the sources of information to gain a holistic view,
(e) People who rely on social media contact such as Facebook instead of genuine human interaction,
(f) Parents and children who spend less time developing meaningful and bonded relationships in deference to the pursuit and processing of more and more segmented information competing for space in their heads.

The entire Pew Internet article:

The real question to consider may be this: "Should we expect the next generation to be more attentive, kind, and deeply intellectual when they’re raised in a culture increasingly focused on instant gratification with as little effort as possible?” Have gains in productivity made profound thought and rumination obsolete? It is painfully obvious that many already disdain dealing with anything that requires time and patience.

If the answer is "no," who in the future will be responsible for tackling major problems requiring the use of these skills? Will an elite group of "slow-twitch" or "no-twitch" thinkers then read, discuss, and digest the mounds of information needed to process the difficult things most of us "just don't have the time or the inclination to pour over"?

Then, will these "brainy nerds" merely text or electronically purvey their conclusions in condensed sound bites and summaries for our review? Maybe we should learn to not even care about anything but our own instantaneous desires. We could just let the "big stuff" go. Why should we wait and worry and be sad at all?

As concern for gratification shortens from the minute to the second and from the millisecond to the microsecond and beyond, perhaps "living in the moment" will take on ever greater connotations. The entire reason for existing may warp to hyper speed, and pleasure may become the only meaningful human emotion. Then, we all may become dopamine "dopers" in our own conceptions of continuous bliss. In this future, "gimme" would be free of all bounds of space and time. We would truly "have it all" and "get everything we want when we need it."

In truth, instant ascertainment does not typically satisfy us for very long. The easy to get, the "smiley" trivial fun, the unexpected delights -- they are all pleasing but fleeting. Lasting satisfaction requires hard work and continual upkeep. Strangely, we humans are attracted to the cheap but rarely view instant gratification with high regard. In contrast, something we achieve through extended, difficult effort usually becomes a source of both life-long contentment and increasing passion.

We truly learn to love others and to love ourselves through flesh-and-blood experiences. We can never tire of waiting and allowing our loves to develop their own unique characteristics. Others we love change and we change, too. As we commit ourselves to the "long haul," any true and lasting gratification associated with our experiences develops periodically over long periods of time. We age and adapt as we continue to strive for meaning. We can't will our "happy" conditions alone nor can we disconnect from loving others.

Never, in my life, have I completely attained any of my goals of gratification. I hope I never do because I feel the honest satisfaction for a human being is in the work and in the struggle. To me, doing what I love and being with whom I love is as close as it comes to gratification. Transcending the material and acknowledging the worth of waiting are difficult. I am not as skilled in these gifts as I wish to be; however, I clearly see them to be precious.

I shudder to think of myself becoming devoted to instantaneous gratification. I am sure I would become an alcoholic or a drug addict if I thought I needed to live for the moment and the pleasures a moment could provide. Why? Because I know many of my own faults and propensities to stumble. If I would feed desire without a care for making myself and a few others better, I would sink into my own selfishness and stay there. I need the love of others to survive, and I need to reciprocate their love. And, in my case, that takes a lot of time. Maybe even more time than I have...

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