Is the digital age making us instant gratification addicts?
When was the last time you had to wait for something? And I don’t mean wait for the next iPhone to come out, wait an extra thirty seconds for a web page to open or wait for that dream body to arrive after eating healthily for a solid 24 hours!
I mean truly wait. Wait how your grandparents had to wait for love letters, wait like you had to use dial up when connecting to the internet as a kid or wait to get your holiday snaps developed after a week away.
Everything is so easily available due to the digital age and surely this must be a good thing, yet why are so many of us feeling less satisfied?
1. We expect to have everything now and are left feeling disappointed when we cannot have it there and then.
Amazon Prime is a god send when you forget your friends birthday present until the night before and that next day delivery when you’re preparing for an evening out and just can’t find the right outfit is invaluable. But does that mean that we should really expect everything to be at the end of our fingertips?
The other day, I found myself getting agitated because my iPhone 8 was going to be delivered 4 days after the date I was promised. How ludicrous? What a waste of time? How unorganised? After getting myself more and more worked up about the fact that I would no longer be able to use my phone for a few extra days, I paused and decided it was time to have a bit of a reality check. Why did I have this reaction? In reality, yes it would have been nice to have had it earlier, but was anyone hurt? No.
Sometimes we need to take a step back from the world we live in, be mindful about what is actually happening and realise that instant gratification is short lived and waiting a few days longer won’t harm you. Furthermore, in the grand scheme of things, you’ve lived without it before, you can continue to live without it again.
2. It’s putting way too much pressure on young adults and teenagers to stay up to date and keep relevant on social media.
We are constantly plugged into the digital world. Posting a photo on Instagram immediately floods our phone with ‘likes’ and comments, feeding the instant gratification need and reassurance humans now crave. We can message friends across the globe instantly, upload a video in seconds and provide a comment straight away.
But how many times have you sat there and replayed over and over in your mind what tweet you are going to post? How many hours do you feel like you’ve wasted thinking of the right caption? Which photo to Instagram? Which filter looks best? What WILL everyone think about that outfit that you decided to choose last night (which you’re now concerned you can only wear once anyway!)
When I was growing up as a teenager, I struggled with my confidence and if I’m honest, it is still a work in progress. But not for a moment could I imagine what it must be like for young women and men growing up in school nowadays, with the pressures of having to constantly look and appear so perfect on social media all the time.
At least when we were at school, ‘popularity’ was immeasurable, you may have thought you knew who the cool kids were, but now you have an actual number of ‘followers’ on the likes of Instagram.
And the sad thing? Young adults are being taught that this digital popularity contest is how to make money. Increase your ‘followers’, increase a chance of success in life. I for one, know how pressured that would make me feel as a teenager and could not imagine how hard it must be.
3. Social media makes it look like hard work is easy for the majority and you are the unsuccessful minority.
A BMW, a Rolex, Mulberry, the perfect body.
I bet you can’t count the amount of times you’ve seen a picture of one of these on your social media pages in the past week? And I bet something in the back of your head made you think that obtaining those objects was easily attainable for that person, and in some way, it wasn’t fair that you didn’t have them?
People want these materialistic items, but don’t realise that in order to have them the instant gratification model DOES.NOT.WORK. Social media does not show all of the hard work that goes on in the background to be able to get these item.
What you didn’t see was the person who owns those items working from 6am until 11.30pm at night, 7 days a week. You probably didn’t realise that for them to get to that point, they didn’t go out at the weekend, they did miss their child’s first play, they went to the gym at night and they certainly did not have that extra slice of cake.
We know ourselves that social media is not real, so why do we continue to beat ourselves up about what other people have and what we are trying to achieve? We live in a digital society now which has brought us so much that we should be grateful for, but I can’t help but think that there has to be a way of teaching ourselves patience, there must be a way to teach us to be kind to ourselves and not judge and measure our own success against something that isn’t real anyway.
I don’t know the answer, if I did, I’m sure it would solve an awful lot of societal problems. What I do know is that instant gratification is brief happiness. We get it when we want it; it comes, it goes, and it fades, and for human sanity it is something that we need to address. It is something we need to wake up from and stop giving ourselves a hard time against unrealistic expectations. Otherwise one day, we will look up from our phones, have wasted our time judging ourselves on a false reality and regret what we have missed in the real world.
So remember, be patient, be kind to yourself and don’t believe everything you see online.