Pulling the Plug: A Rant Against Immediacy

Instant gratification is running amok. Why does easy access demand an immediate response? This notion is more understandable in a business setting—where the weight of a company’s money and time is constantly pressing—but it doesn’t end at the office door. I, rarely witnessed in the wild without my iTether, have been ridiculed by friends for not responding within minutes to casual, generalized salutations. There was no topic they wished to discuss, no statement they wished to make, no question they wished to pose, and yet I was saddled with their demand for an immediate, even superficial response.

Technology – Emotion = Efficiency
The other day a friend of mine was lamenting the lack of photos in the iPhone’s iMessage app. “I used to have photos of people’s faces on my Droid…” he said. “Now I just have names. Names don’t mean anything to me. They don’t get me emotionally involved. I want to see who I’m texting.”

That’s a powerful statement. The idea that communicative technology is trading true connection for efficiency is one that has been circling with a wider and wider arc over the past couple of years. My friend’s comments brought to mind the discussions led by Sherry Turkle, noted psychologist, author of Alone Together and Director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self. Sherry has been arguing for some time that our limited ability to actually converse with and relate to one another is becoming crippling, to the point that we’re feeding the endless cycle by relying on technology to fulfill us emotionally, because no one else will.

Efficiency + Relentlessness = Irrelevance
So this is where we’ve landed. A world where any contact is acceptable, as long as it happens right now. We’re at the beck and call of…everyone. And we demand just as much meaningless attention from our brands as we do from our colleagues, friends and families. Is it really any wonder that the companies behind our favorite products scramble, bumble and fumble as they attempt to adjust to the constant changes in personal technology, promotional mediums and ethical marketing? We want it bigger. We want it faster. We want it yesterday, regardless of its actual usefulness.

I’ll be the last person to suggest that we do away with our brain ports (see job description), but I’ll also be one of the first to say that we all need a chance to unplug. For brands, that means refusing to pander to communicative trends for the sake of immediacy alone, and instead maintaining a focus on delivering the best product, the best solution, the best message, no matter how long it takes. For individuals, that means taking a few hours a day (a DAY) to stop looking at the world through a touchscreen and connect with the people in front of you—face to face, eye to eye, voice to voice. For Pete’s sake, give someone a hug already.

So what do you think? Shall we start right now? Yes, on the count of three. One…two…th

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