Courtney Ackerman, 19 June, 2018
Instant Gratification and its Effects on Relationships
How does instant gratification harm relationships? Laura Brown from Meet Mindful explains:
- Relationships must be respected as organic, living creations that develop and grow at their own pace; people are also on their own unique path that may result in a different pace than their partner’s. The desire to get the relationship you want right now or force a commitment in a relationship that is simply not mature enough yet is a great way to ensure that the relationship fails.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! We all know communication is important, but the quality of communication is even more important than the quantity. It might feel good to shoot off an angry text or discuss what seems like an urgent issue right now, regardless of you and your partner’s current emotional state, but these actions can be extremely detrimental. High-quality, face-to-face communication beats out 160-character messages and taking the time to explore your feelings and reflect beats blurting out the first thing that pops into your head.
- Not every relationship SHOULD evolve, meaning that not all relationships will last ‘til-death-do-us-part, and that’s okay! It might feel extremely important to you to push your relationship to the next level—or to whatever level you desire—but forcing a relationship into a stage or a mold that doesn’t fit will only end in pain. Sometimes the best decision is to let a relationship go, even if it seems unbearably painful in the moment.
- Patience is a virtue. There’s a reason that on-the-fly marriages in Las Vegas are less likely to last than those between two long-term partners who have planned their future together: it takes time to get to know your partner, to get to know yourself, and to create a healthy, nurturing relationship. The poets and romantic comedies may push the idea of love at first sight, but it simply doesn’t exist; you must actually know someone to truly love them (although newborns have a unique tendency to capture our hearts pretty quickly). If you don’t spend the time and put in the effort to build a strong foundation, your relationship is at risk of folding at the slightest breeze (Brown, n.d.).
Instant Gratification’s Effect on Society
Aside from the impacts on our personal lives when we give in to instant gratification’s seduction, there are society-wide impacts as well. We are undoubtedly becoming a society that is accustomed to getting what we want when we want it, and there is a big reason for this trend: technology and social media.
What Role Does Technology and Social Media Play?
Although instant gratification has been a struggle for humans for a long time, it is undoubtedly harder than it used to be to delay gratification.
The biggest contributor to this increase in difficulty is modern technology and social media. When you have, essentially, the world at your fingertips, it’s extremely challenging to consciously choose delayed gratification over instant. In an age where Amazon has accustomed us to one-day delivery and Netflix and Hulu have gotten us hooked on instant streaming, it seems unthinkable to wait.
This relationship between instant gratification and technology is a two-way street: the more we are offered instant gratification through our technology, the more we come to expect it, and the more habituated we become to getting what we want right now, the more pressure there is on companies to fulfill this urge.
Emma Taubenfeld of Pace University outlines some of the effects of this interplay with salient examples:
- DVRs eliminate the need to wait through commercials to get back to your show or movie.
- Disney parks offer fast passes that allow you to skip the wait and jump to the front of the line—for a fee.
- Walmart and eBay are offering progressively faster shipping to compete with Amazon.
- Internet providers are constantly upgrading the speed of their connections to compete with other providers (2017).
Perhaps the biggest influence on our gratification habits comes from social media. Not only can we find out in an instant what all of our friends are up to or share the picture we snapped just moments ago, we can meet new people in seconds as well. Dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, and OkCupid offer the opportunity to connect with literally millions of people within seconds, and to filter them by dozens of specifications with a delay of only a minute or two. While there are certainly positive outcomes from our new constantly-connected world, there are negative effects as well. It’s not a stretch to say that people are simply much less patient than they used to be. Research from the University of Amherst found that video stream quality has a shocking impact on viewer behavior: if a video takes more than two seconds to load, would-be viewers start melting away, and each additional second of load time causes an additional 5.8% of people to give up and move on to something else (Krishnan & Sitaraman, 2013). This is astounding when you stop to think about it. A delay of only two seconds is enough to make many of us give up on discovering something new, learning something we need to know, or even being entertained! In a study on a similar topic, the Nielsen Norman Group found that most people stay on a web page long enough to read only about a fifth of the text that it contains (Nielsen, 2008). The average web page in the study contained 593 words, so visitors generally read only about 120 words on a typical visit. Data from this study also showed that for 100 additional words on a page, visitors will spend only 4.4 seconds more before moving on to a new page. Depending on reading speed, that translates to around 18 words. Think about that—when you add text to a page, you can only expect visitors to read about 18% of it! Although this certainly points to a tendency towards instant gratification (i.e., visitors find what they need and get out as soon as possible, or they give up because it takes too long), it may also be a sign that internet users are getting better at scanning pages and finding the information they are looking for. However, with the exponential growth of false information online, even this silver lining has its own cloud—with so little time spent on gathering information, how could anyone have time to verify what they read? It’s all well and good to quickly find what you need, but how certain can you be that it is accurate when you spend mere seconds scanning the page? As we become more dependent on the internet, and less patient with our time, it’s hard to see a future in which the prevalence of false information becomes less of a problem. If the past decade has been any indication, we can only expect more inaccuracy and less patience!