Ladies and gentlehumans, it’s time for another “stream of consciousness,” in which this humble correspondent, with no regard for personal safety, simple decency or the fundamentals of 18th century fashion, delves deep into a specific subject and attempts to make a point. So please ensure your seat backs and tray tables are in their original upright positions and keep your arms inside the essay at all times…
In our modern society, patience has become not so much a virtue, but an endangered species. Thanks to the indomitable and marketing machine that tells us we need to be always “on the go,” (to where exactly is a nugget of intelligence they have chosen not to share) and the 24/7/365 world of information (but very little wisdom) we now inhabit, we simply don’t have time to fuss about such baroque nonsenses as patience.
Indeed, western culture has turned busy-ness into a fetish. I chose the word fetish quite specifically, because that’s the most accurate way to describe it. In entrepreneurial circles, it’s nearly become a religion. Point your ocular apparatus in the general direction of the business section of any bookstore, and you’ll find endless treatises on such concepts as “the grind” or my favourite, “hustle.” (I sometimes wonder if anyone realizes that this word was once a colloquialism for a con job. Curious that.)
Now don’t misunderstand me my dear reader – I am in no way begrudging humans who work hard, and… if I must use the beknighted word, “hustle.” My concern is that we’ve turned the idea of the entrepreneur working endless hours each week into the norm, when in actuality it is (in many cases) misguided, unhealthy and ultimately self-defeating. The term burnout has entered our everyday lexicon, and nearly everyone of us has either experienced it or know someone who has.
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of TL;DR
This obsession with busy-ness has dialled down human attention spans to unhealthy levels. An example of this is the idea of TL;DR. (An internet acronym – apparently we don’t have the time to write anymore – for “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”) This is left in comments sections by bright sparks as a complaint about the length of a blog post or story. It was born of the myth (yes, I said myth) that no one reads long passages online. We’re informed by Those Who Know These Things that it’s because internet users tend to skim, desiring to digest the key points before getting on with their dreadfully busy day.
As a creator of belles-lettres I could prattle on until the cows came home, got bored and went out again on just this subject, but for the sake of brevity, let me just say that TL;DR has nothing to do with people’s supposedly busy schedules. It came about because a large portion of the content found on the internet is vacuous, poorly-written and unworthy of people’s time, no matter how much of it they may have. To put it another way, if all you’d been fed your entire life was junk food, why would you ever ask for a salad? The bottom line? Don’t create shorter content, create better content that engages the reader from the beginning.
Speed Kills… Quality, Objectivity, Accuracy
I think the busy-ness obsession is tied into our ever-increasing desire for speed. It’s become a cliché to talk about our “fast-paced lifestyles,” and the media has been one of its greatest enablers. Look at the marketing for your local television newscast. No matter where on this big blue marble you hail from, I can guarantee one of them will use a phrase along the lines of, “first with the news” or other such blithering nonsense. No mention of accuracy, or objectivity… just speed.
Competition between companies breeds this as well, and while it’s is not necessarily a bad thing, it has – in the technology industry at least – given rise to the adage: “Never buy version 1.0 of anything.” The first version of any product is often plagued with issues, mainly because the company wanted to get the product out ahead of its competitors.
I recently saw a conversation online discussing the length of instructional or informational videos. Several respondents suggested that the videos should be short, and one person said that any more than three minutes was too long because he would not have the time to watch. I wouldn’t even comment on such a thing, except that I know for a fact that this particular bright spark – and he is by no means unique – regularly spends 20-30 minutes every day in a drive-through waiting for an overpriced cup of brown water.
My dearest reader, if I may try and coalesce this miasma of random neural firings into something resembling a point: Our obsession with speed and busy-ness is self-defeating, unsustainable and largely unhealthy. We’re already seeing the negative effects of working long hours and shipping products and services before they’re ready. Eventually of course, things will self-correct, like an engine that runs too long and too hot and eventually burns itself out, or a person who simply works too long and collapses from exhaustion. That seems to me like a terrible waste and I’d like to think we human-shaped humans are smarter than that.
I’d love to say more on this subject but… I just don’t have the time.