Instant gratification seems to be the mantra of my generation. As I surveyed the pairs of averted eyes encircling my table at a recent dinner party, I quickly realized that all of my dinner companions were texting away on their iPhones. Even in one-on-one conversations with my best friends, there are still occasional rhythmic pauses in which both parties stop to quickly respond to messages.
Albert Einstein once said, “I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.”
Have his worries been realized?
These scenarios, though distasteful, are nothing new. We live in an age where “buffering” is as much of an impediment to the momentum of our daily lives as traffic jams or red lights. There are quick fixes to seemingly everything, a concept that pervades almost every aspect of our culture, making everything easier, simpler, faster. There’s Wikipedia, expedited shipping, fast food, one-click shopping, 30 Minute Meals, diet pills, T9, online dating, SparkNotes. Perhaps most significantly of all in underscoring this standard is the emergence of on-demand viewing.
Perhaps a report by consultancy firm Ad Age Insights puts it best. “Welcome to the On-Demand Generation: Tweens, teens and young adults who expect to get the content they want, when they want it and where they want it. They’re also quite demanding of the media they choose — not because they are spoiled brats, but because the easy consumption of ubiquitous media is all they’ve ever known.”
I am a product of Generation Y, also known as the Millennials — those born between 1984 and 2002. Throughout our childhoods, Millennials have been cited for many transgressions, chief among them the need for immediacy.
Some attribute this to the “trophy mentality” we grew up with. (Honestly, I’ve won more awards than I can count for essentially just showing up.) I believe, however, that it is not this need for gold stars so much as the advancements in our technology that enable us to perpetuate the mindset that The Berenstain Bears (I am a child of the ’90s, after all) so prophetically called “The Gimmies,” a phrase my mother still uses to this day.
By and large, the consensus seems to be, “Give the Millennials what they want.” According to a recent Nielsen Wire blog post, “The 18-24 year-old consumer demographic consumes media where it can, when it can. Nearly half the viewers in this demo grab their smartphones at least once per day while watching TV, topping any other group. What’s more, the most recent Nielsen Cross Platform Report notes that this group spends the most time spent watching video on the internet—almost an hour-and-a-half each week.”
Considerable viewership from Millenials was partially responsible for the revival of my beloved show, Arrested Development, made possible by the backing of television and film subscription giant Netflix. The revolutionary format will satiate users appetites by releasing all episodes at the same time.
“It’s attractive because the film industry and now the TV industry has the opportunity to learn what the music industry hasn’t,” Kevin Spacey, star of Netflix’s original series House of Cards, told USA TODAY. “Give the audience what they want, when they want it, at a reasonable price, and they will buy it and won’t steal it.”
We live in an era of enormous advancement, certainly, but can we truly sustain it without the patience and ability to see tasks through to completion? In a world filled with chatter from every direction, how might we hear our own voices?
While technology can be massively empowering, it has the potential to hinder at the same time. We shorten our words into abbreviations and dilute our ideas into clichéd idioms, for instance, all for the sake of convenience. While productivity is vital to the advancement of Generation Y, endurance is equally important.
Or to put it another way: The early bird may get the worm, but patience is still a virtue.
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