Gimme Gimme Now… In 140 Characters Or Less

With technology being truly ubiquitous in developed countries, has the innate desire for instant gratification increased?

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By Jennifer Allore, who missed being a millennial by only a few years but is no less impatient.

Millennials have been under attack for the last several years for their allegedly unexplainable behaviour, perspectives, and interests. Although misunderstanding the younger generation is certainly not a new practice, millennials are being judged a little bit more strongly than necessary. After all, they were born into and raised in the internet age. Tapscott (2009) maintains that one cultural norm of this ‘Net Generation’ is their expectation of speed: they need instantaneous responses, feedback, and action. How about you?

Have you been experiencing:

  • a decreased interest in reading entire books or texts?
  • an increase in online shopping?
  • an expectation for fast delivery of items purchased online?
  • impatience in the speed of your internet or streaming websites?
  • a growing reliance on using technology in your classroom to keep students’ attention?
  • anxiety when you wait for an email reply?

If you answered yes to one or more of these descriptors, you may be suffering from a serious condition, historically referred to as “Gimme Gimme Now”, or GGN. The good news is that you are not alone, and you do have options.

Hurry up and tell me about it!

While GGN is a fictitious name, the need for instant gratification is a well-studied phenomenon. In the 1960s, Stanford researcher Walter Mischel conducted his famous, ‘Marshmallow Test’, where 4 and 5 years olds were left alone in a room with a marshmallow for 15 minutes and promised a reward if they did not eat the marshmallow. About one-third of the children immediately ate the marshmallow, and about one-third waited long enough to receive the reward. The test has been replicated many times, and later researchers found that the children who were able to delay their gratification would go on to be more successful in life.

The more pertinent question is now, perhaps, has technology made this need for instant gratification more pronounced?

Patience breaking point

When you are watching Netflix or your Android box or other live streaming apps, what is your breaking point? How long will you wait for a show, movie, or music to stream? According to a large-scale University of Massachusetts, Amherst study, viewers will start to abandon live-streamed videos when waiting for more than 2 seconds. At 10 seconds, about half will leave. At the twenty-second mark, 80% of users will give up. Does this sound like you? It may not be your fault.

Technology speeds up processes, so it’s no wonder why we expect everything to go, act, and be faster. We have been conditioned to this expectation. Being a click away from information, communication, and entertainment is also changing our brains. Scientists now believe that because our brains are being hardwired to process information faster due to the increasing use of and reliance on technology, we now even perceive time faster than it really is.

Is this the death of patience?

We can point at the Millennials for their need for immediate feedback and gratification, but the truth is, technology is changing all of us. However, the adage, ‘patience is a virtue’ is now more relevant than ever. Should 21st Century skills like the P21 Framework be revised to include patience as a Life and Career Skill or associate patience with deep and critical thinking?

Or will this word drift from our modern vernacular, only used to impart flavour in time-period writing? Simply put, as educators, the choice is ours.

Further Reading

16 Strategies To Promote Grit and Delayed Gratification in Students
Teaching Kids Patience

Instant Gratification and Its Dark Side

Patience Resources for Educators of Kids from Character First Education

5 Strategies For Delayed Gratification And Why You Should Do It

References

Bejjanki, V. R., Zhang, R., Li, R., Pouget, A., Green, C. S., Lu, Z., & Bavelier, D. (2014). Action video game play facilitates the development of better perceptual templates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(47), 16961-16966. doi:10.1073/pnas.1417056111

Krishnan, S., & Sitaraman, R. (2013). Video stream quality impacts viewer behavior: Inferring causality using quasi-experimental designs. IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking (TON), 21(6), 2001-2014. doi:10.1109/TNET.2013.2281542

Mischel, W., Ebbesen, E. B., & Raskoff Zeiss, A. (1972). Cognitive and attentional mechanisms in delay of gratification.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21(2), 204-218. doi:10.1037/h0032198

Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (2015). P21 framework definitions[Draft]. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/docs/P21_Framework_Definitions_New_Logo_2015.pdf

Tapscott, D. (2009). The eight Net Gen norms. In Grown up digital (pp.75-96). Toronto, Ontario: McGraw-Hill.

Author: Jennifer Allore

Jennifer Allore is a Master of Education student at UOIT focusing on education and digital technologies. She is an adult educator with over a decade of experience specializing in English language education.

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