Instant Karma’s Gonna Get You

I shot out a traffic light the other day with my shotgun, one that has been giving me fits lately as I go to work. No, I didn’t actually shoot it, but I have found myself fantasizing about doing so lately as I have become increasingly agitated while waiting on this particular light. In fact, I’ve noticed I’m becoming more irritable lately and have even found myself yelling expletives at machines, particularly instantboostup my computer and cell phone. No, I don’t think I’m going through a change of life. Heck, I wouldn’t even know what a hot flash was, but I don’t think I’m alone. When I mention this to my friends, they recognize their level of impatience is rising as well. I have older friends who are retired and appear much less stressed out and this got me thinking as to what was the cause of the discrepancy. True, I am still actively employed and they are not, but this is as it has always been. There must be something else.

Other than being employed, I am much more imbued with technology than my predecessors. For example, I make extensive use of computers on a daily basis. I write and communicate with them, I prepare presentations and spreadsheets, develop and use data bases and web pages, process financial transactions, and I use them for entertainment purposes. I have a cell phone which I use only occasionally, unlike a lot of people who seem to be addicted to them. My children are probably more proficient with such devices than I am, not to mention games and digital multimedia. Then it hit me; through our technology we have been nurturing a sense of instant gratification thereby affecting our tolerance.

Take photography as a small example. Just fifty years ago you would have a simple box camera where you carefully loaded a roll of film, usually consisting of just 12 shots (exposures). After you took your “snapshots” you would take the film to a drug store to be processed at a price and normally requiring a couple of days. 35mm cameras slowly made their way into our lives offering superior pictures with a roll of 36 shots. Nonetheless you would still have to wait to have the film processed. The point is, because you had limited exposures which cost you money to process, you tended to be more judicious in taking a photograph which was normally used for special occasions, such as group shots at birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, etc. or to capture memories while on vacation. Today it’s different. You would be hard pressed to find anyone without ready access to a digital camera of some kind (the cell phone took care of that). Now we expect to take voluminous instant pictures and upload them to the Internet for sharing with family and friends. Whereas fifty years ago, the average family may have taken no more than 100 pictures in a year, today we take thousands and distribute them around the world instantly. And if we cannot, we become terribly upset.

This leads me to believe there has been a significant change in our dispositions due to our enhanced use of technology. It would be interesting to see some research substantiating how our tolerance levels have changed over the years, thereby leading to heightened stress in our society. Technology has dramatically altered how we access news, our eating and sleeping habits, even how we learn which, in turn, affects our mental acuity, such as our alertness, our attention span and our sense of work ethic.

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