In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal (yes, scandal is the right word) and after reading Annabel’s rather brilliant feature looking at the future of blogging, I’m thinking a lot about the internet right now. As much as I love my tech, it’s hard not to feel shackled and controlled by it sometimes. It’s also impossible to argue that we’ve all avoided being changed by this online world. Whatever it’s given us, it’s also taken plenty away and one of the things we’ve lost along the way is patience.
Over the last week, The Hottie has been away with work. I’ve indulged myself by re-watching The Crown and there was one scene that really stood out. In the midst of a crisis, the Queen sends for Churchill with a request he meets with her ‘at his earliest convenience’. Given her status and given his, given the situation they’re in and the scope of the emergency that’s unfolding, Churchill replies that he’ll be there tomorrow.
That reply just wouldn’t cut it now. Tomorrow? You mean I have to wait? Are you joking? What the actual…?
And that’s what the internet has done to us.
Now I know I’m getting on a bit but I remember ordering things (by having to send the form in the post!) and always being told to that delivery will be within 28 days. 28 days!! Sheesh, now we roll our eyes if we have to wait 28 hours for something.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for progress and I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to clicking ‘buy’ and expecting said purchases to be with me in the blink of an eye. But I don’t know all this does us any good.
We expect to be able to have everything we want the moment that we want it. With one click, we can do pretty much anything we wish and unseen minions will leap into action to do our bidding. It’s great isn’t it?
Well, it is and it isn’t. You see, our need to have everything now now NOW spills over into the rest of our lives and we forget that sometimes, immediate gratification isn’t actually the most satisfying thing. And sometimes, we really should question our need for speed.
A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of the first Beast From The East, The Hottie had snow days from the school where he teaches and on one of them, we fought our way around to our wonderful local pub (I know, the bravery!). We ordered some food, we got our drinks and we sat down by the fire to chat and while away a couple of hours in each other’s company.
Well, it was for us but not so much for some of the other people who’d also decided to come out. Given that we live in the countryside and given the state of the roads, not all of the staff had made it in. Totally understandable. But not to the people who were still moaning and complaining that they had to wait for their food.
I don’t want to live in a world where we’ve lost the ability to wait or to remember that everyone is, as the saying goes, fighting their own private battle and just trying to get through the day.
And you see that more and more, everywhere you go. People rolling their eyes at having to wait, shop assistants having to apologise for keeping people waiting as if the previous customer’s complicated purchase, or indeed the staffing levels in the entire shop, were their fault and let’s not forget the stacks reviews online mentioning ‘outrageous’ waiting times. A nation known for its love of queuing has totally lost its patience.
We walk out of places to eat if we’re told there won’t be a table for another 10 minutes, we binge watch streaming TV because we won’t wait for the next episode, we order pizza online and keep refreshing the page to see when it’s out for delivery and we even send ‘are actually you going to reply?’ messages to friends who we know have read our messages but haven’t got back to us. Hell, if we won’t even wait for people we love, what hope is there?
To me, it seems as if sometimes, our online world makes us feel that we’re the most important things in the real world. We’ve had likes on our Insta and Facebook so clearly, we’re the hottest thing around. I’ve seen teenagers getting properly aggrieved because their friend hasn’t liked their latest Insta even though they only posted it five minutes ago.
When did we become so self-centred? When did we stop thinking about other people and only think about ourselves. When did we lose the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes for a little bit, wonder what might be going on for them and just be a bit kind?
Now I’m not saying we’re all like this all of the time but if we’re honest with ourselves, can any of us really say that we’re not a little bit guilty? I caught myself the other day, getting mildly irate because an old lady was taking her time to reverse out of a parking space. What right did I have to do that? She was doing her best and who am I to criticise? What do I know about her life and her own challenges? Nothing at all.
I don’t want to live in a world where we’ve lost the ability to wait or to remember that everyone is, as the saying goes, fighting their own private battle and just trying to get through the day. We shouldn’t stamp our feet like a petulant child who’s been told they have to wait five minutes for attention. We should have grown out of that. We should be better, kinder and a whole lot more considerate.
Annabel touched on our growing impatience in the feature I mentioned earlier. She spoke about how we just scroll scroll scroll past things online now, how we as online consumers can access whatever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want. We’ve become lazy at consuming content.
But it’s not just that, unless we get a grip, we’re going to become lazy at being human too. Real manners, the manners that you need to have for real life, are being forgotten because online, we can say what we like to who we like and there’s no come back. We’re forgetting how to just be nice, decent, human people because the internet lets us get away with it.
I read a note (online, the irony!) over the weekend from a restaurant owner saying how many people just fail to show up for their booking. They’ve booked tables online, changed their minds and just not even bothered to get in contact to cancel their booking. Why do we think that’s ok? We’ve clicked to book because it’s quick and easy but then can’t bring ourselves to do the decent thing when our plans change. It’s rude but hey, it’s online so there’s no comeback and anyway, the customer is always right…
So, back to my tale of a snowy afternoon at the pub and those impatient diners. Where did being impatient get them? Well, it certainly didn’t get them their food any faster, it didn’t make their day any happier and it definitely made the other people they were with feel pretty shitty. What does it say to you if the person you’re with cares only about getting their meal as quickly as possible and seems to resent having to spend time with you?
The internet and everything on it can be so wonderful. But I tell you what else should be wonderful – us.
We should be patient, we should be kind, and we should be tolerant, understanding, accepting and thoughtful. We can be those things, we’ve not lost the ability. We just need to stop clicking like automatons and get back to being human.
And that’s one thing I really don’t want to have to wait for.