By Samir Shukla
Everyone wants everything instantly. This is the dilemma of our times. This need for instant gratification will only accelerate as technology moves exponentially forward. Access to evolving technology and our digital lives have made this need for instant gratification and instant communication an untamable beast.
Add to that the inevitable and incoming Artificial Intelligence infusion, which is intriguing and will make our lives easier in many ways. It will also contribute to reduction of common sense and instinctive intelligence that humans have evolved over the eons. Patience is no longer a virtue. This is not only true of young people; corrosive impatience afflicts pretty much all age ranges.
Of course, the ability to access instant factual information has enormous value. The prime dilemma is that instant gratification and communication also comes with a price. This need for immediacy often replaces or reduces quality with vast amounts of useless quantity, unravels patient thoughtfulness and dialogue, often reduces simple decency and, worst of all, spreads misinformation at a rapid pace. Our attention spans are getting worse due to information and sensory overload. Social media feeds this insatiable beast.
The impatience I observe among contemporary youngsters reminds me of my own impatience and restlessness at that age. The difference obviously is that we didn't have the instant access to what we were looking for and didn't instantly communicate random thoughts and emotional outbursts.
This helped in holding distrust and conflicts at bay. A slap on the face gave a bit more time to think about why you received a slap on the face. Today that slap, or simple critique, is immediately returned with a punch, even though you may have deserved that slap.
I also fall into this trap of immediacy now and then, often grabbing my phone for updates, maybe out of boredom, but usually because it is there, waiting for me to tap in. This happens even though I have turned off all notifications. It has become such a distraction that I'm now working on purposeful slowness. This slowness doesn't have to be at the cost of productivity or the basic things that need to get done during the day.
It means limiting my time on social media and taking thoughtful time to respond to queries or critiques. It means sitting face-to-face with family and friends, setting aside devices and connecting in that warmest mode of information exchange, a conversation.
We must devise pauses to technology lest it pummels us into mushy submission. Sometimes a quiet and studied pause will accomplish more than a shout or burst of action. Things unsaid during heated moments will soften conflict and endure more than blasts of emotional tit for tat hurled about either in person or in texts or messages or social media. The soft power of thoughtful dialogue seems to take a backseat to 24-hour information and news cycles. In our current climate of political and ideological grandstanding, it seems that reasonable voices are drowned out or have simply decided to not waste their breath or peace of mind.
This can change. It can change with people that form the quiet and reasoned majority becoming involved with subtlety but razor sharp focus. Those who want to connect with friends or other communities, but not wallow in the mud pits of social media, have to forge the slower paths. They must construct their own methods of slowness. Conversations caressed with facts and spoken with personal experiences that are refined with the passage of time can and will repulse negativity and falsehoods. This effort requires thoughtful slowness, layered with requisite maturity.
I often wonder and think back to a time just a couple of decades ago, just before the advent of the internet and cell phones. We did everything we do now, but there was measured pleasure in slower information. Of course, we also didn't know what was technologically possible until it happened. But comparing the times, it seems phone conversations were warmer and less hurried, good information was more valuable because it didn't come easily while bad information had to work much harder to gain ground.
Now text messages and social media posts fly at the speed of light. Isolation, distrust, hate, pettiness, and narcissism mushroom and permeate the senses like white noise.
I'm not interested in turning back the time, just turning back to slower, thoughtful connectedness. Everyone has some personal space or interest they can crawl into or draw upon to slow it down and regain focus when needed.
There's one place I can return to a slowness I love. Yes, it's very convenient to have access to music instantly on my phone, and as a fervent music lover, that's a benefit. But I'm finally working on getting my old turntable repaired and dusting off my record collection. It's been too long since I've heard the faint crackle of a record when the needle hits the vinyl, just before the song kicks in. Today, I've decided, I'm putting the needle down in the grooves on a happily spinning record, the ongoing record called life, and transport back to a time of cherished slowness.
It's a start.