Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

Instant gratification means constant impatience [Commentary]

MusicVehiclesPoetryRadioThe Rolling Stones (music group)

I realized recently - probably within the last year, actually - that, technologically speaking, there is very little we have to wait for anymore.

I realized this with music, which I listen to a fair amount. One day I heard a song on the radio and immediately listened to it again on a website, which would have been impossible when I was growing up.

My sister one-upped me because she has an app that "hears" and recognizes a song while it's playing somewhere.

She held her phone up to the radio in the car and instantly had the name of the song and the lyrics to sing along to, karaoke-style.

All of this is a big contrast to my time spent listening to music growing up, and buying cassettes and CDs.

(I won't even get started on cassettes, which required things like constant rewinding and fast-forwarding - not to mention fooling with the little plastic tape when it inevitably got pulled out of the gears and tangled.)

And finding the lyrics to any one song could be a huge adventure. Every time I bought an album (well, tape or CD), I would be praying that the artist was nice enough to include all the lyrics in the little fold-out sleeve.

Usually they did, but sometimes people would get extra-"artsy" and refuse to include the lyrics, in which case you would have no idea what some songs were saying, sometimes for years.

Hearing something on the radio was even worse. I would frequently have NO clue what the lyrics of a radio song were, and, before the Internet, finding it out was a regular research project.

Now you just Google it and there it is. Done.

This means that for large numbers of people today, primarily of the younger variety, waiting for anything is a much bigger chore.

If we can't find out something instantly, we get restless and irritated, no matter how trivial the issue might be.

("Who played Becky Donaldson on 'Full House?' I need to know right now!")

Fortunately, someone almost always pulls out a smartphone to answer our burning question.

("It was Lori Loughlin.")

Sometimes I try to not answer a question I have right away, just because I don't like to feel like a slave to a piece of technology.

It usually makes me pretty frustrated because I know the answer is just a couple of clicks away. It makes me realize how much less patient I've become, in a lot of ways.

The Rolling Stones had a song that says: "You can't always get what you want / But if you try sometimes, you just might find / You get what you need."

In the world of the Internet, though, you almost always CAN get what you want, and you can get it at the drop of a hat.

Obviously it's great to have the ability to get exactly what you want. But there's no such thing as a free lunch, so what do we lose in exchange?

According to the Rolling Stones, it's "just finding" that we get what we need.

It's hard to "just find" anything, to stumble across something new or different, if you always get exactly what you are looking for.

A lot of great songs were only discovered because someone accidentally played the "B-side" of a record.

Alexander Fleming only discovered penicillin because he forgot to close a petri dish.

(Not a great analogy, but I like to throw that one out there.)

I realize not too many people are considering the loss of mystery or real discovery while they're busy clicking through the "full house becky donaldson" results on Google. Fair enough.

But try a little experiment by not looking something up right away and see if you feel frustrated. Then see if you can challenge yourself to live with not knowing something, with not checking that e-mail, with feeling the impatience but not giving in to it.

It's surely not what you want, but it might be what you need. You might not get the answer you were looking for, but you might learn a thing or two about yourself.

Don't worry, I'm not wishing for some kind of mass return to the pre-Internet days.

Besides, as comedian Dane Cook points out, even instant gratification will probably reach its limits.

"In the year 3000, everything will be instant, but the [Department of Motor Vehicles] will still take, like, nine seconds," he said.

The more things change...

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Comments
Loading