“I want it all, and I want it now.”
Nineteen years after Freddie Mercury first sang the words, it’s worse than ever. My dad loves to quote the lyrics to me, but they need to be pounded into the mindset of an entire culture that programs digital video recorders from cell phones, skips novels to go straight to the plot summaries on Wikipedia, and reads insider Oscar predictions so accurate there’s no point in watching the ceremony.
Think back to a time before text messaging. Before Twitter. Before the Facebook News Feed. We survived without knowing the every move of our friends. We really did.
The immediate connection of texting is a touchstone so pervasive that no situation is off limits: texting in class, while driving, after being woken from a dead sleep, in the shower or while hiking a mountain. MSN.com ran an article in July titled “Texters hurt as they walk, ride – even cook.” The photo was a guy riding downhill on a bike, both hands and eyes dedicated solely to his cell. Unfortunately, I’m guilty of these offenses as well.
Here’s a situation: I receive a text asking me if I’m joining friends for dinner. I look at my watch. It’s 2 p.m. This message is borderline insignificant. It’s full of things like the letter “u” and “tonite.” It sacrifices grammar for speed, both for the fingers typing it and the eyes it’s written for. But unless I’m lucky enough to ward off the powerful impulse to be rude or inappropriate, I’ll probably reply within moments, regardless of my company or surroundings.
Why? Because the thirst for instant knowledge is damn near hardwired by now. Even the most patient souls are victims to this culture of immediacy.
And guess what? I’m making this complaint, and I’ve written texts while riding my bike. I always make an effort to pull the car over, wait until I step off the bike or finish my conversation with someone, but the desire to immediately continue the communication is so deep, it feels instinctual – a creepy thought considering how new most of this technology is. Pause for a second at the name of the system that made e-mail look like the new snail mail: Instant messaging. Instant.
Textology and technology as a whole aren’t the only signposts for immediacy becoming second nature; they’re just an easy example to point a finger toward – the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Impatient, instant consumerism may be the biggest bane of all. If countless millions hadn’t lent and borrowed money they didn’t have and bought things they couldn’t afford – all in the name of immediate gratification – the financial crater the U.S. is sinking into might not be so deep.
Convenience is spectacular. I love the supermarket self-checkout and I text message like a fiend. But everyone can stand to take a breather. It’s okay to want it all, but do we really need it now?
Zach Dionne is style editor for The Maine Campus.