I’m a 90’s child. I grew up on dial up internet, playing Pokemon on a gameboy, and not being able to use the phone and internet at the same time. I grew up with half an hour being a good download time, and the idea of downloading a whole movie in less than a day was unthinkable.
Now, I get fidgety when things take more than a few seconds to load, where lag and slow internet are the most annoying parts of my day. Having to wait is slowly becoming more and more unacceptable.
So what happened?
Faster and Faster
As technology improved over time, internet speeds grew faster, the idea of having to wait a few minutes for a web page to load became unthinkable. Add in the creation of social media pages, being able to instantly connect with other people and have them comment or reply to posts of yours in a matter of seconds has created a sense of instant gratification.
With everything moving at such high speeds, waiting has become something of a burden. Ever want to play a video game but it needs an update first? Been there, done that, been annoyed at a 20 minute delay.
Being able to get an immediate answer or reaction has caused me to want to rush things more and more. Slowing down seems time consuming, and don’t even get me started on multitasking…
Speaking of multitasking, for me it started out slow and simple. Listening to a classical music “study” playlist while doing homework or studying. Slowly it grew to listening to things in the background at work, to playing on my phone while watching something online, to playing the Sims, listening to a YouTube video on my phone, while simultaneously scrolling through Reddit.
Multitasking is so easy to escalate to a point where my attention is spread so thin that I’m not getting the full enjoyment out of anything I’m doing.
Social media is the biggest culprit of instant gratification. Where else can you post your latest selfie and depending on how active you and your friends are, get instant feedback? And if your friends aren’t assholes, you’re most likely going to get a good response in the form of likes and/or comments.
How does this work? Well, each time you get a response to your social media post you get a small hit of dopamine. “Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behavior .”
So basically, the more you post, the more responses you get, the more your brain wants that hit of dopamine. It’s super easy to get addicted.
Pay to Win
You may not be big on video games, but probably have at least a mobile game, right? Most mobile games have the pay to win strategy as their main objective. What does this mean? Usually, there is some sort of in game currency or objects that you can collect. More often than not you can get these things by playing the game, but it’s relatively slow. But, if you pay a certain amount of real world dollars, you can buy that in game currency instead, preventing you from having to wait all that time until your next daily free gift.
Personally I play a game called Covet Fashion (iOS | android). It’s basically a dress up game where you are given various scenarios (a princess’s wedding, an anniversary dinner, a modern teacher look, etc.) where you can dress up your model. Thing is, you have two sets of currency, dollars and gems. You start off with a healthy amount of both, but you need to use them to buy the various outfits you want to create.
There are 17 different categories to spend your money on (dresses, jumpsuits, tops, pants, shorts, skirts, shoes, bags, jewelry, jackets, sweaters, vests, leggings, hosiery, socks, accessories, swimwear) so it’s really easy to spend your money quickly.
Some challenges require specific items to be used and if you don’t already have them you can either buy them, or borrow them from a friend if you happen to have any that play the game. They also give you extra points for wearing things that are in season as well as something you haven’t worn before. So in order to get the highest score possible, you would have to wear entirely new clothes that were in season.
You get a daily allowance of a few hundred gems and 20 tickets (which are used to enter the different challenges). So you can see how if you’re really into the game and want to progress how spending a few dollars here and there to get ahead.
Low Attention Span
All of this has accumulated into me having a low attention span and not being able to not multitask. If I’m not doing at least two things at a time I get bored. Let me repeat that.
When I’m not doing TWO THINGS AT A TIME I get BORED!
How ridiculous is that!?
Some things I get, like listening to music while I write, or having something on in the background while I’m at work. But not being able to watch a YouTube video or play a video game without being on my phone as well is just plain crazy!
I already have anxiety which makes me want to move at a faster pace than most people. Growing up everything was always a rush, no matter what it was, it needed to be done and it needed to be done yesterday. And now I’ve reached a point where I not only need to have everything done by yesterday, I have to do multiple things at the same time!
I can’t even bring myself to read a book because it’s such a slow and independent process that I get agitated just thinking about it.
I have to ween myself off of having the need to do so many things at one time. I need to be able to do one thing and focus on that one thing until it’s done. I need to chill myself out so that playing the Sims isn’t so boring that I need to do something else while playing the game.
I’m going to try and cut the amount of YouTube videos I watch during the week. I love watching let’s plays, it’s such a great way to experience a game that you might like but wouldn’t enjoy, as well as get the personal touch from whatever YouTuber I’m watching. But lately I’ve been watching a lot more and I’m thinking about using that time to get back into reading. I recently ordered 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson and I want to get started on it. I ordered it over two weeks ago and so far it’s made it from the packaging to my coffee table.
Have you experienced these kinds of issues with instant gratification and short attention span? Do you have any helpful tips or tricks you want to share?
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