Instant Gratification, Self Entitlement, and the Internet
(Originally posted September 2010 on www.GuerrillaGeek.com)
I am a technology junkie. I always find myself enthralled by the latest, greatest gadget, the fastest computers, the prettiest graphics, and I have even returned to school to learn how to write my own programs. I constantly explore methods of networking my assorted devices at home just for the fun of it. My RSS reader is full of the updates from countless technology-themed blogs and webzines. Googling my name will show that I subscribe to nearly every social networking site available. I am yelled at at least once a day for playing on my iPhone while my wife is trying to tell me about her day or what I should make for dinner. I spent the weekend at the lake and upon arrival, the first thing I did was check for a WiFi connection… and then spent an hour optimizing the settings on these strangers’ wireless router for them. I am contemplating naming my first born child “Steve Gates”… even if it is a girl.
The Internet has changed my life.
I recently read an article in Wired entitled “The Web is Dead”. This fantastic article posited that, while the “Internet” is present in nearly everything many of us do, we can spend all day connected to the internet without ever opening a browser or “surfing” the web. Between the lines of that greater message, I read something else that really got me thinking. If you were to ask me if I thought my obsession with technology was a healthy one, I truly wouldn’t know what to say. I mean, I don’t empty my bank account on iPads (much as I might want to), or take out a second mortgage to purchase my very own Tron Lightcycle, but there are other issues that might be just as detrimental to my well being.
Lets face it, the ease with which one can access news from around the world, music, or movies, and talk with friends, is incredible. Twitter has allowed us to connect with celebrities and other previously out of reach personalities on a level never before possible. Facebook gives us a much more intimate look into the lives of those close to us through photos, videos, and boring status updates. Services like LinkedIn allow for corporate headhunting and professional networking. While Foursquare, Yelp, or GetGlue allow our friends an even more specialized picture into our worlds by showing locations and hobbies that are parts of our lives. And now, almost all of these applications work together. In a matter of minutes, I can know your favorite movie, who your relatives are, where you are at right now, and what you think about that mosque near “Ground Zero”. I can share what I am reading with you and you can wish me good luck at that job interview. All while simultaneously learning about Paris Hilton’s favorite Jamba Juice flavor.
Most people I know can accomplish all of those things on their cellphone. The question is how much is too much? Oversharing is not uncommon on many of these services (a couple of them even reward you for doing so with special achievement markers), and while you ignore what you choose, it defeats the purpose in doing so. You can’t help wondering how this new lightning-fast global communication is affecting the way our world-wide community functions. When I hear about an earthquake in New Zealand on the other side of the planet from where I am, before any television news channel has time to type the headline, it raises questions. How long before these other sources of news and media are outdated and swept away by the tides of technology? Why would I read a local paper or watch the local news when my iPhone can tell me what they have to say… and more… faster. I have talked a bit before about the struggles of the popularity of digital printing, but even that problem is bound to be streamlined soon. With technological advances like that, we aren’t talking about the cure for cancer. The pieces are already out there, they just need to be assembled in the right order, at the right time. Twitter and Facebook allow for instantaneous connections to be made to anyone that will listen. Brilliant thinkers that have never had the platform to express their ideas now have an audience… Glenn Beck might not be our biggest threat anymore.
For businesses, this new era is the dawn of revolution for them as much as for us. A good thing considering the state of the economy (yay, capitalism). Self-publicizing and marketing campaigns have never been easier or cheaper. This machine is built for speed in mass communication and efficiency, all you have to do is find a handhold and grab on. Everyone from the tattoo shop down the road in your hometown to Best Buy should be utilizing the benefits of these services. This wave of technology can be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on what kind of person you are. In the United States, our already ”fast food”, “30 minutes or less” culture leads to an arrogant atmosphere of self-entitlement. With a child on the way, I am forced to wonder what these current trends will bring for future generations and how to tackle the challenges they are sure to bring a young father.
I suppose in the end, all any of us can do is grab on tight and see where this thing will carry us. The good could easily outweigh the bad in most areas of technological advances, but that doesn’t mean the bad will be any better for us. I suppose keeping the old “modesty is the best policy” forced rhythm in mind is really our only defence against the looming shadows. All I know is that I wouldn’t rather be alive any other time than right now.