Monday, 10 February 2020

What has instant gratification done for us?

I’ve always seen myself as an impatient person.  Just like everyone there are things I desire or want to achieve and like most people, I get frustrated if it can’t happen now or at least soon.  As a kid I would nag my parents for something or other until they relented or said that I’d have to wait which would usually end in a tantrum.  As we grow up, unless we are the offspring of an Arab prince or Russian oligarch, we get used to having to wait and learn how to be patient.  This is of course a good thing because it allows us to approach things with a clear mind and it also acts as cooling off period - “Is this what I really want?”.

Recently though, I’m beginning to think I’m very patient.  I’m proud of this too because as a person with bipolar it’s harder to achieve, especially at the lowest point of depression or the highest point of mania.  It’s quite often during these peaks and troughs that I seek a quick fix to cheer me up or change my life for the better.  However, I’ve learned to remind myself of the all important cooling off period.  After a few hours or days, that new phone, new car, expensive software plug-in, can probably wait a bit and moving to Patagonia to herd llama all seems a bit reckless without at least a bit of research.

Okay, I understand that part of the reason is that as I’ve got older, I want for less things and appreciate what I already have.  Naturally I’m less excited by the shiny and new and been disappointed by hype enough times to be more cautious.  That’s not the whole picture though, I’m still as hungry as I was at 18 for new places, tastes, experiences, sounds and stories.  I still have countless dreams and desires but accept that I can only ‘control the controllables’ and therefore there’s no point in having a five year old style tantrum.  I’m not always capable of managing my impatience but I try.  So why does it seem impossible for so many people these days to even try to curb their impatience?  I suppose I need to give an example of why I think this is such a problem.

Generally speaking, company staff are working way beyond their payed hours because of a shaming culture that’s spread across the developed world leading to an overworked, unhappy and even suicidal workforce.  If you’re not doing over and above, then you’re not ambitious enough and therefore, unfortunately you’re “not the right fit for this company”.  Doing your job well is no longer enough for over ambitious bosses.  They want results before they’ve made enough money to pay for the amount of employees they really need to achieve their ridiculous deadlines.  It’s understandable though, we’re sold crazy aspiration goals that tell us we’re not successful unless we’ve retired at 40 with millions in the bank.  So many companies these days are set up with no long term goal, only with a vague idea that can hopefully be sold on to a massive corporation for quick bucks.  The corporation rushes into the purchase without enough research because it needs an immediate solution to fill a missing part of the organisation but then it turns out not to be what they actually needed.  People are unnecessarily made redundant but it’s okay because someone made a mint out of the deal.
All this impatience leads to poor quality products rushed out to increasingly impatient customers who probably paid for them with a credit card because we need it right now to fix our overworked depression and to appear successful and ambitious to our peers.  Now, because our hastily designed product doesn’t work properly, we call customer service centres filled with thousands of unskilled staff because answering the call in seconds is more important than resolving the issue properly.  Aaaargghh, the anger! - zero stars, thumbs down etc.  “Why do we have to wait so long for such crap?”, “This country is rubbish, I blame the government!” 

Ah yes, the government.  It doesn’t matter who it is or how long they’ve been in power, policy changes take a long time to implement if they are to be well thought out and given time to take effect.  It doesn’t stop the complaints and protests from those who demand instant change and immediate improvement to their way of life.  Only instant solutions that are in front of us will work - remove this, replace it with that, sack them, hire them, jail them and our favourite, spend more.

I could keep going here for probably 100,000 more words until it all loops round to ‘company staff’ again because it appears to be a pattern.  Take football as another example.  Ask yourself why do so many people support the top six teams in England over their local team?  Why are top footballers paid so much?  Why do managers last on average only 6 to 18 months in a job?  Why were none of these things the case 30 to 40 years ago?  It all leads to our lack of patience for instant success.  Pick a subject that is important to you, think about the things you don’t like about it or problems that it faces and you’ll probably find that our impatience plays a large part in those issues.

So why am I banging on about this?  Well, apart from believing it would make a much happier, healthier society if we just calmed down a bit and put some effort into understanding the bigger picture while thinking of the long term effects of our instant gratification, I have a selfish reason too.
I make music and video, I believe I’m a pretty creative person and like to think of what I do as art, my art.  Whether you see it that way or like it or not is up to you.  It has and always will be down to personal opinion.

What I do ask though, is that if you watch or listen to my work, or in fact anyone else’s work, please don’t dismiss it after a few seconds.  Give it at least until the end just once to hear all the words, all the sounds and see the whole picture.  If you can do that, then thank you, you’ll have given me a chance and that’s all I ask.

Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to let an algorithm driven by the impatience and petulance of our modern society tell me that MY songs should be under three minutes, my videos under one and that intros are now irrelevant.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to be told what the subject matter should be or what tricks I should employ to dumb down my work in order to appeal to idiots with the attention span of a fruit fly.  Unlike these digital marketeers, I don’t believe that you, the majority of people and my (hopefully) potential audience are idiots.  Please prove me right.  

You can listen to my album ‘Carrot Shaped Stick’ here

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