Thursday, September 6, 2012

THE TROUBLE WITH INSTANT GRATIFICATION

Patience may be a virtue but does anyone have it anymore?

I ask this question after hanging up my cell phone (instantaneous communication), unpacking a dress I ordered online last night (instantaneous cross country delivery), downing another cup of Starbucks (instantaneous caffeine rush found on every corner in NYC), and tweeting to total strangers about Saturday's Michigan game (instantaneous connection).

I'm sorry, did I make you wait too long for the answer?

Because I'm certain the response to that question is "yes," the answer to my first question is "very few of us."

We are without a doubt an instant gratification society.  

Think about it.  It's not just text messaging or cell phone calls at any time of the day or night.  

Don't go to the bank to deposit a check.  Just scan or snap a shot and hit send.  Want to see friends who live overseas or next door? Don't get off the couch, you've got Skype and Facetime.  And forget about waiting a week for pictures to be developed (yes we did that). Use your iPhone and iCloud links the photos to your iPad and Macbook instantly.

That's just scratching the surface. So is it any wonder that in most aspects of our lives whatever we want we want right now? 

As one who is well aware of her own lack of patience I willingly own up to this desire for "instant gratification."  From my perspective it isn't necessarily a bad thing, but trust me it can be.

Take our current state of politics or more specifically the election which for many hinges on the economy. 

As I see it, when President Obama took office nearly 4 years ago that economy was in shambles.  I'm not going to give you numbers if you disagree but I will turn to a quote from the Economist earlier this month: "NOT since 1933 had an American president taken the oath of office in an economic climate as grim as it was when Barack Obama put his left hand on the bible in January 2009.  The banking system was near collapse, two big car manufacturers were sliding towards bankruptcy; and employment, the housing market and output were spiralling down." 

Let the political debate begin.  

Did the President take the right steps?  Has he created enough jobs?  Are we better off than we were 4 years ago?  Democrats say yes Republicans say no, but this is certain: Better isn't necessarily good when it comes to the economy.  

I mean it's been three years and eight months, this whole economy thing should be completely fixed right?! 

That right there is the problem.  This overwhelming societal need for "instant gratification" whether it's realistic or not.  It takes 10 seconds to blow up a building but how long to rebuild?

With the US economy as dire as described in The Economist, Bill Clinton was dead on last night saying that no previous President could have fully fixed all of our economic woes in this amount of time, not even him.

Still we want it and we want it now.

The problem is, some things take time. 

Take the drive from NYC to Bristol, CT. I made it on average four times a week for a solid year.  It took 90 minutes without traffic.  I wanted it to take less.  I needed it to take less.  I had no time in my life for a repeated 90 minute drive.  It didn't matter.  It took 90 minutes, sometimes longer.  My need for instant gratification would not be fulfilled and half the time I was so annoyed by this unrealistic need or expectation, I discovered what road rage was about.   

Back to the economy, the reality we faced four years ago was that fully fixing it was not a four year process.  That just doesn't sit with our need for "instant gratification," does it?

By the way the political arena isn't the only place where an "instant gratification" attitude can hurt.   In sports, it can be even worse.  I say worse because sports trumps politics even in a presidential election year. (According to ratings more people watched the NFL season kick off on NBC last night than the televised speeches at the Democratic National Convention.)  

Allow me to use my brother Mark as an example of "instant gratification" gone wrong.  He's a sports fan and involved in politics so that seems fair.

To be completely honest, I am in shock that his fiancee didn't call off their October wedding after she sat through the Michigan-Alabama game with him Saturday.  I say this knowing his understandable yet at times overzealous passion for Michigan football which requires instant gratification leading to unrealistic expectations for our team. (I also got a text play by play of the first half viewing laced with colorful comments and "insight" into Michigan's performance.)

Now I should point out, he's a really intelligent guy.  

A brief summary of his CV would read: BA in History from the University of Michigan, PhD in Military History from Ohio State (that's a whole other blog), combat veteran who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, Pentagon official, Capitol Hill staffer for Michigan's Senator Levin, and former advisor to Generals' McChrystal and Petraeus.  

Still on Saturday he had the expectation that Michigan wouldn't just beat Alabama, it would be a substantial win.  

He believed that after completely changing the programs philosophy and style of play for a three year span, resulting in a 15-22 record and just six Big 10 wins, that it would take just one full season before Michigan knocked off the reigning national champs.  One full season.  Just two recruiting seasons. 18 months time.  

Forget SEC size, speed, and everything else he knew, Michigan had to win...now. 

Look, I get it.  There was reason for optimism. Michigan was much better in 2011 than in the previous three seasons. Under new head coach Brady Hoke the team equaled those six conference wins I referenced, finished at 11-2 , and won the Sugar Bowl.  It was a huge step forward, but it was just a step.

Much as it pains me to say, the reality is Michigan football hasn't been completely fixed, it's not back on top, not in two years time.  Afterall, better is an improvement but when the starting point is subpar it's a long journey to the top. 

Still we want it and we want it now.

Why can't we wait?  Why can't we be patient be it in sports or politics or even our economy much as it hurts?

My guess: We just aren't wired that way. I go back to all of the things I was doing before blogging: the instant communication, overnight delivery, immediate connection, etc. 

During my time at ESPN I remember hearing stories about how long it took SportsCenter to become the brand that it is, how it was given time to grow an audience and identity.  I wonder if it was started now if it ever would have been given that time it needed?  

It's not just ESPN, TV across the board is very quick to extinguish shows that don't draw. Some have gone off the air before I've even been able to watch the pilot on my DVR.  Don't get me wrong, it's been a good thing at times (think My Generation and Anchorwoman), but how about at least giving a show a full season?

I know it's ratings which mean money but look at SportsCenter.  Again If it didn't get the time where would ESPN's finances be?

We want it and we want it now.

SO DO I.

I want our economy to be in good shape, I want the perfect man, I want to land my dream job, I want to get from the Upper West Side to the Village in less time than it actually takes, I want my planes to leave as scheduled, I want Michigan to be as ferocious as in my college years, and I want the muscle tone of the woman who's often on the treadmill next to me at the gym. 

When you're done laughing please realize, I want those things, I don't expect all of them.  Some are unrealistic, I know that. Forget those and think about the others: an economy in good shape, Michigan's return to ferocity, the muscle tone (yes it can happen).  

Those things take time.  Those things take patience.   

Looks like I'm back to that whole patience is a virtue thing.  Thanks for having a little while reading this and putting off that "instant gratification" desire to check your texts.

DJ 
 


8 comments:

  1. Dana, you're a genius and a great writer. We spoke last fall during the Tigers playoffs. I'm actually writing this for the second time, as my iphone pooped out... Unfortunately, progress created this society we both endure. More, more, more; Now now now, is the most common theme of (at least) America as we know it. Everything you have so eloquently shared above is true. Match.com, for example, states "Most marriages on the internet!" Really? I'd rather stay single than surf the internet to READ about someone that may be right for me, thank you very much.
    As devastating as our economy is for lots of Americans, it makes me wonder why we can't go back to fundamentals. FDR once said, "Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education." Can we teach our kids a vocation? Maybe not 12 years of English? Something we struggle with is production of our own design. I'll bet you didn't know, a music company can cut pine in various lengths and sizes, ship it slow boat to China, have it assembled in the general shape, for and sound of an 88 key, beautiful piano, ship it slow boat back and it would still be 1/5 of the cost of something that was actually created here in less time. Is that American Ego? Where does the over pricing come from? Why can't we be competitive, at least, compared to other countries? I'm only asking hypothetical's here, naturally, and I don't expect you to answer, however if you know someone who can, please email me! : )

    All in all, I would never consider living in another country; such is the love I have for this Democracy that was instilled to me at a young age by wonderful parents and a school system who cared, (back then.) SO I thank you for your honesty and will enjoy the next blog as much as this one.

    Post Script; Please tell your brother thank you from me for his service to this country.
    Steven

    Srcicci2@me.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dana, I truly applaud this blog. I have said in the past we live in a microwave society. Whenever we put something in, an immediate return is expected. I enjoyed your comparison between Michigan football and politics. In understanding college football, Brady Hoke inherited a Rich Rodriguez football team. A team which was built in my opinion not about size but speed. A team built maybe to win in the Big East, but not the power of the Big Ten. Coach Hoke adopted Rich Rods players into his system. We made some positive strides last year, but there is still a ways to go.
    Now on the political side as you said Obama adopted someone else's problems much like Coach Hoke did. Have we seen improvements, Absolutely! Are things the way we want them to be, Absolutely not! Are we looking to fire Coach Hoke after last weeks loss? Not at all! So why would we seek new leadership when we have began an upward turn?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, that is a lot of words lol! First, Michigan "back on top?" Exactly, when were we "on top?" I mean Bo never won a title (other than Big 10) and then only won two Rose Bowls (one in 89 against a over matched Washington during the Run LeRoy Run bowl and one with his best 2 loss team in 1981 with Johnny Wangler). So these "Best of Times" memories of Michigan Football are, in the words of GW, misremembered at best.

    We had one shared title in '97 sandwiched in between 4-5 4 loss seasons. We were never "ferocious" in the way Alabama is now. Heck we were never "ferocious" in the way OSU was in the Tressel years. We do have dignity and ethics and that comes with 3-5 losses a year. Ask Notre Dame what is the cost of an ethical program.

    As to the economy it is better, it's just different. As to your guy, get out there and find him. As to the woman on the treadmill keep pumping out the miles and you will be. The truth is we never have instant gratification everything in the past came with as much work as we need to give it now. Just the "Rose Bowl" color glasses with which we view the past make it seem like it happened in an instant.

    So suck it up my friend and get most for which you asked.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just fab. I read this while gobbling breakfast, two TVs on and cell blinking next to me...and it caused me to stop, Breathe, THINK and identify a couple of parts of my life that really MATTER (Staying connected to my daughter's school work and improving my punctuality). None of your three goals, nor mine, are assisted by instantaneous anything! Well worth the time to read, and write...thanks, Dana -- ;->)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ms. Jacobson, I had no idea your blog existed until today. I have been a huge fan of yours for a while now.
    Wow, how talented you are, and now I have the good fortune and unexpected pleasure of following you via your blog. Keep up the great work and thank you for your well reasoned writing.

    Kevin Short

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree completely with your thesis in this article. I am also glad to read your blog and see that you are doing well after your ESPN experience. I definitely would like to hear your insights about the behind the scenes activity for a young woman at ESPN. I could sense from your on-air appearances that you were not totally happy with your experience at ESPN.

    In reference to "instant gratification", I feel that we as humans are constantly intervening in the natural cycles of life for all things in material universe and either trying speed the process in reference to our goals and desires and slow the process in relationship to aging or desired experiences. I think that we need to remind ourselves of the natural process of things and be satisfied with thing as they are. For me, observation of nature in its simplicity is the best reminder that I should not intervene in the natural cycle of life.

    I looking forward to reading your future blogs!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sorry Dana, but your point doesn't translate to politics or government. Four years not only isn't instant gratification, in that realm, but an eternity. As openly socialist Oliver Stone, of all people, said yesterday, Obama took a bad situation and made it worse.
    I believe four more years of Obama will be catastrophuic on many fronts. Domestically, he will drive up the debt and deficit with new spending bills and for those who fear for Israel's existence he will imperil it with his pusillanimous Iran policy.
    Happily, polls now point to a probable Romney victory so those developments I hope will not occur.



    ReplyDelete