On the heels of another best seller heralding this time French parenting, stating French children know how to wait, describing serine meal times in restaurants, 4 course meals and parents able to relax and read the paper as opposed to the frenzy attached to all of American life not just parenting, it’s no surprise a Google just released a startling study on how shockingly little we are willing to wait. The average according to Google 250 milliseconds, the blink of an eye; what is lost in all this, some say the savor of sweet anticipation, the excitement of opening a letter from a friend, receiving a phone call, building a quality relationship. Not only that but the mere moments we take to size a person up, decide if we like or dislike them, decide if we want to date them based on fractions of a second’s worth of knowledge. However questions not asked include is our society built for anticipation or is waiting and anticipation, unlike the picture of France, a road to disappointment? Looking at everything from the availability of products at your local Wal-Mart to how fast hot items sell out online, one would say no. Still people want to tie waiting for webpages, electronic messages and technology fueled correspondence to our overall patience level, implying we have lost something precious and important in our haste, in our quest for the next thing, in our ever moving, faster and faster world.

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 Yet is it, or is it more things functioning as designed; the examples displayed in the news piece include scenes from the classic novel Pride and Prejudice how many pages elapse between the delivery of a letter and its discussion, the comment that if  Snow White had had match.com she would not have been able to serenade the 7 dwarves. Sidestepped is the pure fact we no longer live in a society where it takes months to travel, receive mail and that puts as many moral constraints on relationships; Snow White is not only a fairytale, whose setting predates most history, but was conceived in a time sands most modern technology, long before the computer, forget the personal computer and she was serenading the 7 dwarves while hiding out from a psycho trying to kill her. Today they don’t call it instant messaging, high speed internet for nothing; added to that, you have to look at what the technology, most of the content the news segment referenced, was built for. E-mail was designed to facilitate quick long distance communication, having the greater bonus of being without charge, other than the standard fee for an ISP, vs. say the telephone and gargantuan long distance charges depending on how much, how often and how long you spoke with someone. Instant message was an outgrowth of e-mail meant to use similar medium to provide electronic communication as close to real time as possible. To that end, no we aren’t going to wait very long for an IM reply, because it’s not the purpose or the etiquette attached to the medium; people assume if you are using IM to communicate you want to do so quickly, therefore we will sign off just as quickly when there is no response, actions having no relation to patience, instead the parameters of common use.    

Further, of course if sites take too long to load people simply move on; scores of us are paying higher and higher prices for faster speeds, bigger data volumes meaning no we will not wait and wait for content to load; otherwise it’s a waste of hard earned money. Continuing, we don’t have time to wait a minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes for webpages to load, for videos to buffer, because our bosses require things of us, our kids need out attention, because we have limited time to indulge in pleasurable net surfing and don’t want it squandered waiting on a video to load, waiting on a site with a slow upload speed. Something else too, people today are savvy enough to know that if it’s taking that long to load a page, display a video, the site probably has an error somewhere and you’re going to get the dreaded Internet Explorer can’t find webpage, error 404 page not found or similar messages denoting a malfunction so they would rather avoid it all together. We are unwilling to wait longer because, even with the slowest internet speed, pages aren’t supposed to take more than 30 seconds to load; we refuse to wait because we don’t have to. And the site that is better organized, has better servers gets the traffic and our business. Such is the way of the modern world. Again patience not a factor only options.

Technology users today are also keenly aware of how much time you can waste on things like social media, tracking Facebook status changes, getting caught up in numerous online games, are daunted by the number of messages in their in box from inspirational quotes, to funny things sent by friends to advertisements for more internet services, new bank features at their bank, new options at Netflix or anything else they subscribe to. The 250 millisecond decision is a way to cut down on the influx of stuff thrown at us daily. As a person who does a fair amount of internet browsing for their job, who is always on the lookout for videos to complement my writing, sharpen my points or provide people with the evidence that politician or person X really did say that, yes there really is a debate going on, on this topic, yes the news actually did uncover situation Y occurring, bizarre thing Z going on in a certain part of the country, I know exactly how long it can take to track down an embeddable video of that eye popping thing seen on the news. I know just how many Google searches, phrasing changes it can take to finally get you where you wanted to go. Likewise I know how many times I’ve had to forego the thing I saw for something related because I didn’t have time to drag out my search any longer for one video. In that type of scenario the last thing anyone wants to do is wait 1, 2, 3 minutes for the item to load, only to find out it’s not what you need, to be directed to a website by a friend, wait that long for it to load and it not have what you thought it would, forced to do this several times to find small tidbits of information, put together the tidbits to make sense of an issue, make a choice on a purchase.

Lost on the compilers at Google, the creators of the news bit is just how much research is done by the average person on medical conditions, childhood illnesses, efforts to find a doctor, a lawyer, a good school for your child, a good college for you to go back to school, a babysitter, a plumber, a deal on household items you need to buy, a birthday gift for your spouse; again it’s a case of the last thing anyone is going to put up with is a site that takes too long to load, during which time you can’t do other activities, all you can do is stare at a screen wondering what the problem is, when is it going to load, is there an issue with your ISP or internet connection,  everyone’s ADD kicks in. It’s a physical and emotional drain no one needs; it’s a type of tedium mentally sucking us dry.  According to the newest health studies such high octane lifestyles as we lead may be deadly, particularly for women, increasing their risk for heart disease, diabetes, but how can we ever slow down if national news is chiding us about our impatience, somehow expecting us to wait and agonize over trivial decisions made about web content, choosing to disconnect from instant messages for the moment to do one of a thousand other things? Bringing us to another point, these 250 millisecond decisions are no different than the thousands of split second choices we make every other day of the week when to change lanes, grabbing a pair of socks from a drawer, how fast we lock our doors then forget doing so; none of it earth shattering, 9 times out of 10 none of it regrettable, partly done so we have the time we need to focus on larger decisions that do carry real consequences.  

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Neither do we actually speed date politicians, another claim, example put forth in the news person seemingly nostalgic for a different era; while what happened and is happening in this election cycle is considered a farce by many, what actually transpired is people initially liked some of the refreshing ideas set forth by the more extreme candidates, liked their position on a particular issue close to them, relished the concept that these were not the typical political figures tainted by Washington. But when these individuals were subjected to more scrutiny by the news media, when ideas appeared poorly formed, other candidates seemed poorly prepared for the office they wished to hold, people stopped voting for them, instead looking at other options for what they think the country needs. Much of the surges up and down in political polls, even now, have to do with a candidates own gaffs; Michele Bachmann saying the shot heard round the world occurred in New Hampshire, Rick Perry’s debate performances where watchers couldn’t decide if he was too medicated or needed to be medicated, the lack of details surrounding Herman Cain’s 9, 9, 9 tax plan colliding with the accusations of sexual harassment left many feeling he must be guilty of something and isn’t the future president we need. Though some radical candidates still remain in the race, Ron Paul’s damn near scary views on foreign policy, social security leave him almost no chance of getting needed votes to win the nomination; Newt Gingrich has spawned multiple controversial headlines about his ideas on work in America, his plans should he enter the White House, making him one more background candidate. Rick Santorum is finally getting his moment in the spot light; however his ultra conservative views merging with actions of Republican Party members across the nation regarding women’s healthcare, has served to ignite women into a force not to be denied, willing to rise of for their right to make their own reproductive choices. Note, all of the political figures mentioned were at one point at the top of the polls, getting votes, looking like a potential nominee and all but a few have faded indicating our quick decision making isn’t completely negative.          

Most of what our national news highlights on this topic, outside of technology, are gut instinct reactions to people, places, situations and circumstances, similar to fight or flight responses. Yes it’s true people take mere seconds to decide their initial attraction to a girl or guy, yes they take only moments to calculate their first impressions of a person; what’s missing is the why. That why centers around the decisions being a product of subconscious input, conclusions not conscious ones. Begging the question why we think it is ok to scold people for physiological, intuitive, instinctual reactions.  There is a radical misconception put forth by the Google calculators, the news broadcasters that the supposed 250 millisecond decision is our final decision; a better assertion would be it’s our first decision subject to change the more information we have, the more time we spend with a person, the more we experience and acclimate ourselves to a situation, circumstance. Along that same track, we may go back to the slow loading website, the video that turned out to be unimportant when we have more time, if our initial searches didn’t lead to where we thought they would.  Other times we may return to a site, a video when we have leisure time to surf the net and aren’t in the middle of homework, work research or desperately needing to find a mechanic, when we’re not knee deep in communicating with our kid’s teacher, getting instructions from our boss or coordinating a family reunion. Discarded for the moment doesn’t mean discarded forever, uninterested now doesn’t always mean uninterested later; we’ve all had moments where we’re just too tired to wait for something to load that is unimportant that was supposed to enhance our fun time, our down time not add stress to it, in which case we say later and go to something else.  

Tackling the concept of what we savor and don’t, anticipation in the modern society; easily argued is the fact a faster paced world, not just the gadgets present in it, has changed how we savor experiences and joys, how we perceive anticipation not losing either only redefining them. What we don’t do is savor and eagerly anticipate accumulated experiences labeled mundane, texts, emails and instant messages, office gossip, making sure so and so got the updated sales figures, the revised report. Adjacent to those types of correspondence we may not relish daily texts, e-mails, instant messages from friends until all the sudden they are no longer there; the saying goes, after all, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone. In situations like this individual messages aren’t savored but rather the cumulative feelings of being connected to people, regardless of if you see them daily; relief can felt by those who suffer from social anxiety, as this medium gives them more control over the interaction. We may cherish all e-mails from uncle so and so aunt so and so, mother or grandmother because of who they are from, deeming others less important due to the place the former persons place in our lives. Savoring and anticipation, like beauty, are also in the eye of the beholder; people may cherish the daily inspirational quote sent around the office by a coworker or the funny joke because it lightens their day, is a key part of workplace camaraderie; others may dislike it as a distraction, one more message in their in box they don’t need. Researchers have also found people anticipate, get excited, feel happy about finding new messages in our in boxes, especially when those messages are of significance to us, an invite to lunch, a hello from an old friend, a relative announcing a new job, the birth of a child. On the flipside, people who see messages that are only spam, advertising news services for this or that thing, who only get correspondence from their boss, receive rejection letters about jobs, begin to dread looking in their inbox, can become depressed.      

In closing, we have all the patience in the world for things that inherently require us to wait; no mother wants their child born too soon, is more than happy to wait in order to see ten perfect fingers, ten perfect toes, a healthy child. We will happily wait for our love to answer out proposal providing we think they’ll say yes. And we will gladly revise our 250 millisecond decision on a person, place or thing when whatever surrounds it/them turns out to be an unexpected positive. Returning to the idea of what we won’t do, we won’t tolerate malfunctions of design; we won’t endure slow connection speeds, web loads when other choices exist, when our time is limited, we have so many other places we would rather spend it. The same principle applies to long lines, waiting on hold, poor customer service. The attitude being if you can’t make it function as designed, if you can’t make it better, no, I don’t have time to wait for this because there are better things for me to be waiting for.            ###