The Jeopardy of Instant Gratification.

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I WAS STUNNED the other day when I happened to pick up a somewhat current copy of Newsweek and began to read about the effects our digital world has on instant gratification. It focused on the younger generation which has grown up with access to a digitalized life and how they have become addicted to their cell phones. It even talked about toddlers who are given iPads as amusement and the behavioral ramifications of that parental act.

The allure of instant gratification is nothing new to human beings. It seems to come with the package. The difference between today and thirty years ago, or less, is the digital world has upped the ante on how many hours a day someone can be involved in instant gratification. For most of modern history, the places people could turn for a quick fix were food, drink, drugs and sex and that brought on the havoc of obesity and concomitant disease, substance addiction and with sex, the lessening of a moral imperative that honored relationship, especially familial integrity. The digital wave is not a tsunami per se, but its destructive potential is every bit as real and great.

Children now use cell phones for amusement.
Children now use cell phones for amusement.

Why? Because it is making it increasingly difficult for our children to accomplish tasks which require a time commitment. If results don’t come quickly, they lose interest and bury themselves in the legal addiction of flashing lights, endless talking and virtual worlds. The problem with this is that the natural order for life on this planet is maturation. By that I mean, there is always a ripening process that accompanies the triumphant stage of any creation. Whether it is the food we eat, or the works of art we create or loving relationships, they all develop over time, and they all take continual engagement over that time to yield their most perfected outcome.

This need for increasing gratification is even affecting adults who know better. Writers are the group I know best and what we hear are people proclaiming how fast they can turn out books under the unproven notion that numbers of books are what will make them successful more quickly. Trying to find a well-written book is becoming a challenge as a result. And what could turn people away from reading, faster than that.

But more important, do we really want to cripple our children by letting them believe that instant gratification will give them a full and satisfying life? It has implications for a future culture of increasing immaturity, ruthlessness and emptiness. Where will they find the will to accomplish what they yearn for, if we don’t instill in them an ability to run the long race? How will they reach what their hearts seek later in their lives if no one took time early on to require of them an experience involving the long view? I am seeing already the malaise that occurs with our youth when they can’t find the will it takes to satisfy a deep longing.

I have to believe there is a hungry heart in us all, one that calls us to greatness. Thus it falls to each generation to offer its children a balanced life and leave behind the tools that ensure they can feed their hungry hearts.

Please click the book cover images to read more about Christina Carson and her novels.

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