Sunday, March 14, 2010

Instant gratification - Part II

We want everything right away. When we have a question, we hope Google gives us the right answer instantly. (Good-bye, libraries!) When we hear a song we like at a bar, we Shazam it and download instantly. (Good-bye, Virgin Megastore!) When we learn about a good book from a friend, we order it through the Amazon smartphone apps instantly and have it shipped on the same day. (Good-bye, Urban Center Books!) If you say you are not that anxious, well... how many times have you complained about how slow your computer is?

One problem of this is that our generation gets more and more impatient, with an attention span that only becomes shorter and shorter every day. In the 1970s, college students could stay focused in a lecture for 15-20 minutes before their minds began to wander. The number in a recent research became 7-8 minutes - an all time low. People just want to get the work done fast, not caring much about the quality of it. "Quick and dirty" becomes the new norm. A five-minute sloppy piece that looks good at a glance can get more appreciation than one full day's careful precise work.

Once upon a time, patience was a virtue, when people still depended on pigeons to bring their mail. But in our society, where instant gratification is expected by default, waiting becomes a waste of time. We want instant communication. We send emails, text messages, online chats as fast as possible - don't even bother to spell or punctuate properly. And we expect instant response, otherwise we get all "textually frustrated." Many times, I found this counter-productive. Rather than saving time, it only creates miscommunication.

Technology is supposed to make our lives better, not worse. While enjoying the convenience technology brings us, we also need to beware of some negative implications that may turn us into those spoiled Axiom people in Wall•E.

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