More than one (older) person I know has reflected on the shortened time-frame that we all take for granted today. We get instant news from that third-cousin you met once at a family gathering. We can read tweets from famous people and comment on them the next day at work. We can find and discover anything, as long as you can enter a search phrase for it (and heck, Google even completes your search phrases for you). Why travel? You can see the whole world as images or in 3D.
For anyone under 25, there is no such thing as waiting for something to happen (unless you need to go to the DMV… I don’t think that’s changed much.)
Take television, for example. Yes, we still watch two-dimensional screens, but we can choose anything we want to watch, as long as it exists, and we can watch it NOW. Waiting for your show on Sunday nights at 8pm? Gone. Oh, and if you missed an episode you were totally SOL. You had to wait for re-runs. We had one TV in the living room; if there was a conflict, well then, let the negotiations begin.
How about pay phones? Do young kids even know they existed at all? After all, what are the red English boxes besides a travel machine for Dr. Who? What if you didn’t have quarters? Or the operation would come on and tell you to put more money in. I remember tapping those phones and succeeding on occasion to dial the correct number. Now, as long as you’re not in the middle of the Mojave desert, there’s no need for them any longer. Order Chinese take out on your drive home. Come on, admit that you’ve done that…
What about boom boxes with dual-cassette tapes? Making a custom tape was huge when I grew up, and we used to steal the songs off the radio. Many of mine started or ended with an announcer (or I would splice the announcer out, sacrificing a few seconds on each end…). Buying a song for 99 cents instantly was unfathomable back then.
Pens. Yes, pens exist today. Everyone can identify one if they see it. Does anyone under 30 write anything down? Rarely. Who can be bothered when your laptop is already on. Never mind the annoying clicking sound during a meeting or class, just type, save, and never look at it again.
I have adapted to today’s pace and I enjoy the benefits of it. I can even be accused of being on the bleeding edge of it on occasion. But we’ve lost an ability to be patient and to use the time in between to be introspective. After all, when you have to sit and wait for the bus for 20 minutes with no cell phone or Internet, you can reflect on the day’s activities or what you plan to do later in the week. You can anticipate going to your grandmother’s house on Sunday. Maybe she’ll make that casserole you love. You can observe the people around you and make up fantastical stories about their lives. You can wonder if you should get a new dog, because after all, you never needed to check the Internet while walking your best friend… and that’s the most important realization of all: that the best moments happen IRL (in real life).