Do you ever get the feeling that people have no patience anymore? No time to stop, reflect and do things at a more leisurely pace? I do. It seems that the more access we have to information, the more we want and the less tolerance we have to wait patiently for it. And this affects our lives in all manner of ways. From waiting for an analytic report to run on our work computers to growing annoyed at slow movie downloads on our devices at home; from standing in line at your local coffee shop while someone in front of you cannot make up their mind to waiting for what seems an age behind a crowd of folks to disembark an aircraft; from waiting for the lines at the supermarket checkout to clear to hanging on the end of the phone waiting for the call centre to take our call, it seems that the world has grown a little less tolerant. We certainly live in the era of instant gratification, and yet it has made many of us a little crankier when we don’t get what we want, when we want it.
You might say that technology is to blame for this change in behaviour and many would agree: as we all have become accustomed to high-speed networks and super fast bandwidth speeds, information can be delivered to us in a fraction of the time it took a few years ago. Negatively or positively, this has had an immense effect on our expectations. Before, we would be content to drive miles to the store and shop, now we expect to go online and have products delivered to us instead. Before we would go to the train station and wait for the train, now we want to check its status, buy tickets and be notified of any delays on our devices live. Before we would go to the video store and rent a VHS copy of a movie, now we want it on our TVs in almost real-time. And with us all having computers, tablets, e-readers and mobile phones, many of us with several of each, it does seem that we want to consume it all, and we want to do it right now.
However, others may say that technology is not to blame, that it is still a conscious human decision whether we search and consume a bit of information as opposed to focus on something else. How many of us have turned to our Blackberry or iPhone at home to read and respond to a work-related e-mail in our free time instead of perhaps conversing with our family and listening to their day? How many of us have chosen to BBM a friend or SMS a work colleague instead of focusing on what we started out doing? How many people do you see with phones and devices almost glued to the palm of their hands checking out things online, conversing with friends, tweeting or updating their Facebook status?
Those that say technology has made our lives easier are, of course, correct. And that goes from the simple ability to skype a loved one on the other side of the world in a matter of seconds, to technology such as our own that allows businesses to connect to various data sources, analyze their data and act upon it in real-time. But as technology makes our lives easier, it has also upped our expectations to be able to get information and do something with it at rates faster than ever before.
In fact, I suspect that our expectations will only get more and more demanding as connection speeds get faster and our daily lives go at an even faster pace. For, the faster we can consume information, the more challenging it will become for us humans to take the rational decision to stop, think, reflect and do something a little less hectic, with a little more tolerance and a little less impatience. But that is a failing of us humans, not technology per se. The main thing to note is that we still retain the option to choose how and when we consume information. So next time you feel yourself running out of patience over something that hasn’t happened in a heartbeat or over a bit of information that you cannot obtain in a nano-second, just relax, count to ten and remember that life can be enjoyed just as well at a slower pace as it can at a fast one. Indeed, we may want it all, but do we necessarily have to have it all right now?