I recently read a book by Jack Kornfield called A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life written in 1993. In one of the chapters he talks about our addiction to speed. Although this was written over 20 years ago, I find myself thinking about this idea in today’s context of rapid interactions, instantaneous results and the capability to do anything anywhere with our portable devices.
Meaningful conversations are exchanged through abbreviated text punctuated with emoticons and acronyms as though we can’t be bothered to take the time to spell out entire words. As soon as an email is sent or a social media post goes up, the expectation is for an instant reaction or response.
Our expectation for a fast pace is partially, if not entirely, driven by the capability of the technologies we use. When I first started connecting to the internet via a phone modem, I remember leaving the computer for minutes at a time waiting for an image to download pixel by pixel. Now I feel irritated if I have to wait a few seconds for the images (note plural) to appear on the screen. And this expectation for fast and instantaneous results has seeped into our interactions with other humans and non-technological services. How did this association happen?
In some ways it seems completely unrealistic because humans are not machines, so therefore we shouldn’t be expected to work at the same pace. But on the other hand, the faster technology does allow us to respond faster because we’re able to access information anytime, anywhere in seconds. Does the speed detract from our enjoyment? Or does it enhance our experiences because everything happens so fast it allows us to cram more in and not spend so much time waiting for things to happen?
Why are we so addicted to speed? If we could choose which things we want to happen fast and which things we want to slow down, what would we pick? Sometimes there’s value to be gained in not responding instantly, or taking a few moments to appreciate something to process it fully before snapping a picture and posting it on Facebook or Instagram.