Our Addiction To Instant Gratification



Not next week. Not tomorrow. Not in a few minutes. Not even in a few seconds.

Now. Right now.

Our addiction with instant gratification is … well … scary, but it’s real.

To be clear, I’m in the “must have it now” camp. While I’m not always proud of that fact, it is true. Thanks in a large part to technology, we are becoming trained (conditioned?) to be of the “gotta have it now, right now” mindset.

And that’s the headline of this – by far the best, most comprehensive – article I’ve ever read on our need for NOW NOW NOW.

While I encourage implore you to read the entire article, I also challenge you to focus on reading all 4,329 words of this article – before getting distracted by an email, or a Tweet, without peeling away to check Facebook or a new text that just buzzed on your phone. I dare you.

So much of this article was spot on.

A few “highlights”:

David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford, Connecticut, likens my email experience to playing a slot machine. I’m not going to feel the excitement of winning a jackpot, but subconsciously I realize that a waiting message could contain a bit of good news. “The hit when you get a good email is like the hit of winning money,” says Greenfield. “It provides instant gratification.”

Yup. I can relate.

“Things are happening so fast and information can be obtained so quickly that it does bias us toward instant gratification,” says Darrell Worthy, assistant professor of psychology at Texas A&M University. “Five or 10 years ago, I would have been more able to sit down and read an entire journal article. Now I tend to read through the abstract and figures more quickly. I’m focused on acquiring the gist of things.”

Guilty as charged.

Can’t stand waiting a few seconds for search engine results? Now, Google Instant reveals possible matches while you’re still typing in your request. Google determined that people type slowly, taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes but only 30 milliseconds to glance at another part of the page and scan it. If everyone around the world uses Google Instant, the company estimates, they will save more than 3.5 billion seconds a day in Internet search time.

I’m a huge fan of Google Instant. Time saver – and surprisingly  accurate! And … it’s INSTANT!

Helicopter parents who hover over their millennial children have fed into the need for instant gratification by intervening to solve every problem, buying them the latest in fashion and technology, and dishing out praise for even the smallest accomplishment.

I do this sometimes – try to solve every problem – even though I know it’s not the “right” thing to do.

To be sure, ever-faster technology can be beneficial when it connects us to the right information in seconds. Some people maintain that instant technology not only is rewarding, but it also makes them more productive. Many pride themselves on multitasking on computers and mobile devices. But a growing body of scientific research shows that multitasking is a myth. The need for stimulation from multiple sources simultaneously plays havoc with our brains and our performance. A Stanford University research study in 2009 concluded that people who are being bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

I’m starting to come around to the fact that multi-tasking is BAD … something my mother has been telling me for year. Thanks Mom!

Indeed, downtime and thoughtful reflection are essential to sound decision-making, creativity and innovation. Breakthrough solutions to problems don’t come easily or quickly — or through Google searches

I’ve definitely found this to be true. I tend to have my best ideas when I’m on a run.

So, what do you think about our need for instant gratification? Does it worry you like it does me? Or is it just an “is what it is” kinda thing?

DJ Waldow
Waldow Social

P.S. As a University of Michigan alum & die-hard fan, I admit that it was difficult for me to commend something written in Notre Dame Magazine! Though I will be in Ann Arbor in September to see UM beat ND. GO BLUE!