Immediacy spoils everything


Let’s go back in time about thirty years.

For the most part, people corresponded in two ways. The first was a phone call. The second was a good old delivered by the Postal Service letter.

When it came to the phone call, there were a few problems. Many homes only had one phone. It was located in a somewhat central place, like a kitchen wall. Likely had a cord, and not a long one. You got to talk on the phone, needing to be aware of others in the house if you had any privacy concerns, and couldn’t move more than six to eight feet from the wall. Add in charges for long distance calls, and things really begin to get fun.

The alternative was a letter. Nice. Always great to get in the mail. But there were some challenges here as well. Most notably, if you sent one out it might be seven to ten days before you received a reply. Really. Day one, you write and address and send. It will be day three at the earliest, and more likely between days four and five, that it arrives. Give the person time to read and write a response. Include that a Sunday will become involved, with no mail moving on that day, and it’s easy to see where a week or more is about right.

Think about those options. Sitting on the kitchen floor to whisper to your friends, or get to place your part into the conversation roughly once every two weeks. Then think about things today. And when you do, keep in mind that not a lot changed between those days thirty years ago and the thirty years that took place before them. Phones in the kitchen and the post office. Your communication options for decades.

Today we have some interesting alternatives. You can use different apps that essentially make a phone call around the world with no additional charges. Text messaging and e-mail allow you to reach out and get a reply in fairly short order.

We’ve moved away from a group that anticipated the arrival of mail and watched the clock when making phone calls. We’ve arrived at a place where many folks get ticked off if someone doesn’t answer a text message in five minutes or less.

There’s a sense of wanting it and wanting it now that permeates virtually everything we do as a result. No question that technology advances are amazing and make life more convenient, and yet there are times when you really do need to wonder if all of it is an improvement.

Here’s a thought: You can do an internet search and find a collectible you never knew existed, while at the same time rolling your eyes because you had to respond to a text (which you did with the letter k and a smiley face emoji, so exhausting). There are mixed messages in that, go ahead and look.

I was wondering about this the other day when a couple of new shows arrived on some streaming platforms. Some of them were placed with the entire season out there in one swift drop. Others are posting at a rate of about one new episode per week. And the streaming services can’t win with either approach. One way we sit down for three to six hours, then complain that it’s taking too long for the next season to arrive. Or, we get mad we have to wait a week. All while being able to avoid commercials in either situation. So, yeah, we’ve got it rough.

Keep in mind, thirty years ago you had to set your VCR or miss things entirely, then fast forward the tape to skip advertisements. Sixty years ago, you either sat down when the show aired or lost your change seemingly forever. (And before you say nothing is forever, I would encourage you to search for things like the BBC hunt for old shows. There are missing episodes of several shows likely forever lost to time, and if some are found it is usually in some of the most stunning places and conditions. Time is marching on.)

There’s an old saying about patience being a virtue. I appreciate that concept now more than ever. Still, at the rate things change, the next thirty years should be amazing.


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