“I want it and I want it now!” And, thanks to technology, I can. Instant messages, instant texts, instant responses, instant answers, instant decisions, instant solutions, instant credit, instant purchases, instant photos, instant movies, instant food, instant coffee.
Instant gratification. That’s what it’s all about. A job that makes us happy. The salary we deserve. A perfect body. Immediately. A return without an investment. Security without risk. Results without effort. We are flooded with messages, advertisements, books and more that tell us that we are simply wasting our efforts by spending time on anything that does not satisfy our immediate desires. “Life’s too short to spend any time on something that doesn’t make us feel instantly ‘good’ or ‘happy’, ‘they’ say.” Seriously, who wants to wait for coffee to brew? Why should I have to grind beans, find a filter, fill the reservoir with water and wait for the pot to boil when, thanks to my Keurig, I can have an instantaneous fix? Why work for it? Why wait for it?
I was talking with Date #33, Pervaze, about this need for “instant gratification” over our pre-concert dinner at Vinoteca Wine Bar and Bistro in DC. We were recounting dates from our past and I told him about one guy who said to me, after about 45 minutes into the date, “I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling that ‘vibe,’ so I’m going to go ahead and go now.” Pervaze told me a story about one of his friends who had recently discounted a guy after the first date because she didn’t feel that “spark.” I recently had a friend who was told at the end of a date that there would not be a second date because there was no chemistry felt right away. Our need for instant gratification has spilled over into the world of dating. If we don’t feel immediate gratification, we are disappointed. And since we aren’t getting what we need right away, we move on. “NEXT!” Which, to me, has effectively killed dating.
After dinner, we headed over to the 9:30 Club to see a band called “Ladytron.” Ladytron is an electronic band that blends electropop and synthpop with new wave. Think Depeche Mode with some Nine Inch Nails thrown in every now and again. Definitely not the music that I listen to on a regular basis. Any basis, really. Pervaze was equally unfamiliar with Ladytron. The fact that he went into this concert with such an open mind, and such excitement, helped me do the same! And we had a great time!
Still, on my way home, I kept thinking that I was slightly disappointed. Ladytron didn’t provide me with that “instant gratification” that I usually feel from listening to my normal music. But I thought back to my conversation with Pervaze and decided to download their album “Light & Music.” And over the past week, I’ve been listening to it daily. And the more I listen, the more it grows on me. Really grows on me. I find myself humming tunes, even when the music isn’t playing. During a certain portion of my drive home, I’ll crave hearing a certain song. And that wouldn’t have happened had I discounted the band due to lack of an immediate “spark.” Rather, by investing time in the music, I gained a true appreciation.
So why is it that we have allowed instant gratification to seep into our dating life, effectively killing dating? Dating should be getting to know someone over a series of dates, in different social situations, over a period of time. Yet, we will go on a first date seeking an instantaneous “fix,” that is, the feeling of a “spark” and “excitement.” If we don’t get this by the end of date one, we effectively rule out a second date. “Why waste time on something that isn’t gratifying?” “Why take time to work on something that we don’t feel is there from the start?” “Why wait for something to develop, if we can find something that sparks immediately?”
But the elements of love and intimacy aren’t things that can be developed instantly. They need to brew. And that takes time. Sure, instant gratification fills a need in the short run. But, long-term achievement, whether in relation to careers, fitness or relationships requires committment, discipline, planning and work. Much like I was humming tunes and craving songs that only a week ago I would have not listened to for more than one second, by investing time in a person you can develop a true appreciation. An appreciation that may leave you thinking about an individual more than you thought you would. Craving the company of an individual more than you expected you ever could.