Monday, August 4, 2014

The Jeopardy in Instant Gratification

by Christina Carson
I was stunned the other day when I happened to pick up a somewhat current copy of Newsweek and began to read about the effects our digital world has on instant gratification. It focused on the younger generation which has grown up with access to a digitalized life and how they have become addicted to their cell phones. It even talked about toddlers who are given ipads as amusement and the behavioral ramifications of that parental act.

The allure of instant gratification is nothing new to human beings. It seems to come with the package. The difference between today
and 30 years ago, or less, is the digital world has upped the ante on how many hours a day someone can be involved in instant gratification. For most of modern history, the places people could turn for a quick fix were food, drink, drugs and sex and that brought on the havoc of obesity and concomitant disease, substance addiction and with sex, the lessening of a moral imperative that honored relationship, especially familial integrity. The digital wave is not a tsunami per se, but its destructive potential is every bit as real and great.

Why? Because it is making it increasingly difficult for our children to accomplish tasks which require a time commitment. If results don’t come quickly, they lose interest and bury themselves in the legal addiction of flashing lights, endless talking and virtual worlds. The problem with this is that the natural order for life on this planet is maturation. By that I mean, there is always a ripening process that accompanies the triumphant stage of any creation. Whether it is the food we eat, or the works of art we create or loving relationships, they all develop over time, and they all take continual engagement over that time to yield their most perfected outcome.

This need for increasing gratification is even affecting adults who know better. Writers are the group I know best and what we hear are people proclaiming how fast they can turn out books under the unproven notion that numbers of books are what will make them successful more quickly. Trying to find a well written book is becoming a challenge as a result. And what could turn people away from reading, faster than that.

But more important, do we really want to cripple our children by letting them believe that instant gratification will give them a full and satisfying life? It has implications for a future culture of increasing immaturity, ruthlessness and emptiness. Where will they find the will to accomplish what they yearn for, if we don’t instill in them an ability to run the long race? How will they reach what their hearts seek later in their lives if no one took time early on to require of them an experience involving the long view? I am seeing already the malaise that occurs with our youth when they can’t find the will it takes to satisfy a deep longing.

I have to believe there is a hungry heart in us all, one that calls us to greatness. Thus it falls to each generation to offer its children a balanced life and leave behind the tools that ensure they can feed their hungry hearts.

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  1. Anticipation is one of life's joys. I can remember my mother saying that the planning for our trips was half the fun and looking back on my life, I'd have to agree. Instant gratification robs us of so much pleasure and does not make for happier lives. Instant gratification teaches children little that is valuable to rich and rewarding experiences. Did you see the video of the farmers who harvested cocoa beans for the chocolate industry, but had never tasted chocolate? Watching that made me realize once again how spoiled we are in the western world and how dissatisfied we are if we don't get what we want when we want. Terrible really.

    1. The saddest part is that is we aren't happy. The strangest part is why we aren't questioning that. Thanks, Darlene, for adding your insights. I always enjoy them.

    2. I live on a busy corner lot right on a lake here in town, and as I look out from the porch ,I see EVERYONE on a cell phone, head down, doing what I wonder. Who are they looking for? What do they want? Are they afraid. They never look up and say" HI, how's it going?" anymore. If I do not speak first ,they never get out of their trance. I wonder in amazement how they can walk by the sparkling lake, hear the loon calls, and see the glories of the flower garden along the lake! Truth is, they do not SEE IT!

      I am an only child and spoiled of a sort for sure,in getting pretty much the" good life " in abundance of love, safety and learning to respect folks and really live and experience life in our family businesses. Attention came in droves, and with all love. I am so thankful mom was not a Apple I -phone and dad and I- Pod ,as I surely would be babbling more than I do now or note even responding to this lovely blog. This realization makes what I might call" the hard times" more easy. I am ever -grateful for this total realization. ---Cheers and see you around the lakewalk---Merri

    3. Merri, what you say speaks to a big piece of the problem - parents too busy to attend to their children in ways that truly fulfill them. This is not meant as a criticism of parents. It is just another area where we are not taking time to identify the consequences of our choices. Awareness is the key. Awareness is always the answer.

  2. So true all of this. I see it around me here on the corner house on a traveled sidewalk. I look out from the porch and seldom anyone looks up to say "hello". In fact if I do not say it first, no one does. I always wonder what they are doing on that phone when the lake is sparkling, the loons are calling, flowers fill the garden, and in reality, they do not see it. They miss Life! Being an only child I was spoiled enough wanting attention and getting it.That was bad enough. I am so thankful mom was not a cell phone, and dad an I-Pod..! I would be cast in cement, deadened to the world around , This realization makes what I might be tempted to call the" hard things "seem easy......So ever -grateful--Merri

  3. We have to hope that the eternal spark within each of us will - given time - bring us all back to what's important. I think it has to happen cause that's the way the universe works. In the mean time, we can at least get better at this awareness ourselves, and blogs like this Christina sure help! Thank you!

    1. In our bi-polar view of life, one might say the pendulum is swinging far out to one side at this moment in time. That can only mean that when it swings back it will go equally far to the other side. Perhaps that describes the nature of how this species evolves. But as individuals, we have choice on our side. We can choose the Middle Way and you are dead on, awareness is our means to choose rightly.