Patience. It’s that thing that has been taught to grasshoppers all over the place by many Zen masters. Patience keeps us tempered and reasonably sane in situations that are long and drawn out. In the age of the Internet(s), though, patience is something that, like a grasshopper, is sucked into the slashing vortex of a lawnmower and spit out in a bajillion lifeless chunks. With the proliferation of broadband, our patience drops further. Who doesn’t notice when the Internet is running ever so slightly slower than it should? Technology has enabled the ultimate instant-gratification culture. If we want it now, there’s a good chance we can get it now. Like for example, I saw torrents of The End Begins, Tantric’s new album, out and about last night. If I wanted to, I could have downloaded them right there and then and had it before I was supposed to. I did wait for the iTunes release the next day, which had some bonus tracks, and I had those within five minutes of my purchase. It’s utterly amazing that just a few years ago I would have made a trek to Best Buy or some other record store and picked up the actual physical CD, had to fight through the wrapping of said CD, and finally find a player for it.
This is the thing about this whole instant-gratification thing, though — it seems like it’s spilling over into other portions of our lives, portions of our lives that have no business being instantly gratified. Millennials, as we’re called, are known for our lofty goals and expectations in our lives, and our uncanny ability to use the Internets to voice displeasure when we’re not happy. Dreams and goals are a great thing — but they take time to reach. And I think this is the problem — we want it our way…you know, Burger King style. If something doesn’t go right at an employer or we feel a wrong has been committed against us, we’re awesome at taking to Twitter and the blogosphere and broadcasting our displeasure. This is a function of the new society, and as Claire Raines’s article says, we’re a weird bunch for an employer to try to keep happy. Any advertiser knows that we’re loyal to very little (can you say Friendster?), and I’m sure that scares the crap out of anybody in management these days — and rightfully so! It seems that there’s an expectation that we will jetpack up to the top of the rock, bypassing the ladder and everybody else on it…it’s been my experience that it’s just not true. I just don’t think a majority of this generation is interested in anything requiring long commitment, including the building of loyalty and the recognition that one has to “pay their dues.”
I see this instant gratification thing everywhere I go. In my well-documented traversals of Internet personals sites, I make the point that it seems that a lot of the girls on there are shooting incredibly, incredibly high. The other night I saw someone who was listed as 24 with a bachelor’s, working on a Master’s, the usual stuff. This person was also seeking 34-year-old men who were raking in a minimum of six figures. One of the few rap/hip hop songs I know comes to mind: Golddigger by Kanye West. (In fact, I’m listening to that right now.) I’m not saying people don’t have the right to set standards — I encourage standards — but standards based on such superficial things as money and athleticism, rather than values and a sense of right and wrong, defeat the purpose of standards. This instant gratification society does not bother with letting a relationship build over time; my generation sure seems to prefer beginning ROC for relationship hyperspeed and getting right down to business versus letting the whole love thing play out. In fact, it was suggested to me just the other day that my abnormally long relationship break be averted with a random hookup, which was an idea that I continue to reject every time it is proposed — thus putting me at odds with a majority of my generation. That’s just not how I operate, though. I see these empty encounters happening and I have to wonder for these people if they’ve ever reaped the rewards of dedication and loyalty to a person and building a relationship over time. I then hope that they one day do figure that out, because to live such an empty life seems incredibly unfulfilling to me. I hope that I’m out of touch with everybody here; please, prove me wrong.
Instant gratification also leads to one heck of a source of stress. If something doesn’t work NOW, or something isn’t happening NOW, my generation gets up in arms and starts to blow steam. We’re a very stressed-out generation as it is with an increasing emphasis on higher education and an increasing pressure to make more to cover the ever-increasing cost of said higher education. It’s bad enough that we have all that on our plate; why aren’t we taking the natural response to step back a little bit and evaluating where we are in our lives, and carefully working through the issues that we have? We are such a panic-prone society now. I lived like that for the longest time and found that it just wasn’t worth it. There’s a lot of value in rolling with the punches a bit.
Look, I’m not perfect. I’ve gone out and spent money in ways I should never have sanely thought of (my BlackBerry is one of those such things that I had no business buying until I was up for an upgrade in August), and I have paid for it with many dreadful nights of chicken-flavored Ramen noodles. I know first-hand that impatient extravagance comes at a price; and unfortunately, a lot of people are getting a very harsh lesson in that now with the advent of the subprime crisis that casts a very dark, almost greenish, cluster of cumulonimbi and mammatus over America’s economy. The subprime crisis is affecting a lot of the Xers, but some Yers — millennials, my crowd — are having some real issues with this, too. I hope, for the sake of my generation, that we grow more through the struggles and pain of these experiences and realize that a giant burst of instant gratification doesn’t come close to the feeling of sustained reward and sense of accomplishment generated from making careful, thought-out decisions.
Maybe I’m wrong about all of this — if so, prove it to me. I won’t be mad or have a bruise on my ego at all. In fact, I’ll feel a little better about our future. :)