At the same time technology evolves to meet the new demands of the modern society, it facilitates the creation of yet newer demands. It is a two-way cycle that both feeds on and promotes instant gratification. In the communication industry, one of the effects of this process is that society’s expectations of mass media have become increasingly immediacy oriented. Long gone are the days when most people would wait for the TV or radio newscast to start, the newspaper to be delivered, or the new volume of their favorite magazines to be issued to catch up with what is going on in the world. The same technology advancements that brought us the Internet, dynamic web content, social media, and mobile devices, created a society that constantly seeks instant gratification; a society that instead of waiting for the newspaper to be delivered, turns to social media, for example, to see the latest news.
While taking advantage of newer technologies to have instant gratification is not necessarily a bad thing—I for one do it all the time—caution should be exercised. Having an I-want-it-now attitude may be fine on social media, where data is transmitted and information is spread at fast speeds, but taking that kind of behavior to real-life situations may have undesirable effects. For example, while the success of an organization’s blogger can be quickly measured based on the comments her audience leaves under her articles, the likes she receives, the amount of times her posts are shared, etc., a corporative recognition, such as a bonus, a promotion, or a salary increase based on her success may still take some extra time to happen due to other processes that are not as immediate as digital interactions, such as budget review, salary analysis, etc.
“On an emotional level, posting a Facebook status, a tweet, or an Instagram photo feeds on and reinforces our need for instant approving feedback. Becoming too used to instant gratification in the virtual world can lead to poor choices and major frustrations in the real world.”
Our digital interactions—on social media, for example—contribute to an exacerbation of the temptation to seek short-term solutions. Immediate digital interactions on social media through tweets, shares, +1s, likes, pins, comments, etc. generate immediate data that can be useful for mass media professionals to measure the success of their strategies and plan for future communications. However, by its nature, such data is short-term. Therefore, when using it, these professionals must be careful not to identify objectives and develop strategies that are equally short-term as a result (Weigel, 2013).
Additionally, as society’s desire for instant gratification increases, its focus tend to shift from the quality of communication to efficiency; that is to say, for example, that people nowadays are more inclined to forgive poor writing of messages from media organizations than in the past, as long as the messages keep coming, and keep coming fast. Technology and modern communication devices, combined with the current instant gratification tendency of audiences, created a gap, in which the need for increasingly faster communication has resulted not only in ineffective communication, but also in changes in language and culture deriving from technological advances (McFarlane, 2010). For example, mobile technology and social media helped create a culture in which we are constantly connected to other individuals as well as organizations. Maintaining the communication flow between all these relationships often takes a toll on quality. This becomes more evident when we start to use abbreviations in our messages, whether they are text messages or e-mails, in order to make the communication process faster.
Have you ever started a chat with a friend on Facebook and, when you least expected, you were trying to manage five other chat windows simultaneously? Did you use abbreviations in those chats?
Independently of the potential technology advancements might have to turn us into immediacy-demanding monsters who also do not communicate well, it is still in our power to make the best use of technology while caring for our own behavior and proper use of language. We can still take advantage of the Internet, mobile devices, social media, etc. without losing touch with our own essence, standards, and command of our language skills.
Watch this TEDx Talk by nationally recognized Internet Safety expert, speaker, and author, Jesse Weinberger, in which she discusses how the instant gratification that technology provides can become dangerous for children.
McFarlane, D. A. (2010). Social Communication in a Technology-Driven Society: A Philosophical Exploration of Factor-Impacts and Consequences. American Communication Journal, 12(1), 1-14.
Soltan, L. (2016). Technology and expectation of instant gratification. Retrieved from http://www.digitalresponsibility.org/technology-and-expectation-of-instant-gratification/
TEDx [TEDx Talks]. (2014). The danger of instant gratification | Jesse Weinberger | TEDxUrsulineCollege [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HXy4eUlkLQQ
Weigel, M. (2013). The conflict between digital immediacy and effectiveness. Retrieved from https://martinweigel.org/2013/06/17/the-conflict-between-digital-immediacy-and-effectiveness/