live in the age of instaneity. We have instant coffee, instant
replay, instant polls, and Instant Messaging--all in the pursuit
of instant gratification.
there are products galore to help us save those precious milliseconds!
In your car, you can read your e-mail on your high-speed Palm
Plot (while checking for faxes) as you wolf down some Pop Tarts
heated up in the microwave. If you're still hungry, you can grab
some frozen waffles from the drive-through at McDonald's (while
barking orders to subordinates on your cell phone). At the office,
you can punch the elevator
button dozens of times, in the vain hope that the elevator will
somehow arrive more quickly.
Gleick, in FASTER: THE ACCELERATION OF JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING,
explores this brave new world of "ever-growing urgency."
His research on our 24/7 culture took him to air traffic control
centers, medical waiting rooms, film production studios, and the
atomic clocks of the Directorate of Time. Gleick argues that the
technology-driven Western world has produced a "multi-tasking,
channel-flipping, fast-forwarding species."
acceleration of modern life has many consequences. One is "hurry
sickness." In order to speed up their bodies, Americans consume
massive amounts of caffeine--which can lead to nervousness, restlessness,
effect is workaholism. In the United States, the average work
week is now 47 hours--up from 43 two decades ago. A recent Gallup
Poll found that 44 percent of Americans consider themselves workaholics.
notes that "sociologists in several countries have found
that increasing wealth and increasing education bring a sense
of tension about time. We believe that we possess too little of
it; that is a myth we live by now" (p.10).
acceleration of just about everything has also affected our consideration
of public issues. The average "sound bite" on news broadcasts
has shrunk to about five seconds, and a television news segment
approaching three minutes is considered "long form."
also affects our priorities. Nowadays, who has time for carefree
lunches or "long walks on the beach"? A 1994 study by
the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago
found that Americans' favorite activity is sex. And how much time
does the average American devote each day to the cause? Four minutes.
reminder of the importance of rejecting a hurry-up culture appears
on the main drag of Thousand Oaks, California. Every block or
so, there are signs reading, "Relax. Slow Down. You're Home."
Published in Hopedance, April 2001.