People have been quick to argue that the overwhelming amount of information and the immediacy at which it surrounds us is shortening our attention spans and causing us to stop thinking for ourselves. According to some, we seem to be experiencing an “ADD” of a population. There is so much brief and catchy news bombarding us every minute that anything that happened five minutes ago is easily forgotten. In order to catch our fading attention that seems only to be captivated by novelties or the scandalous, the media and businesses are playing on sensationalism and crude exaggeration, at times in ways resembling the yellow journalism of the late 19th century. But now, coupled with the technology that we have, we seem to be living in a society where everything has become a fad, a trend, a #hashtag and nothing seems to have longevity.
There is so much information that we consume but none of it seems to have intimacy, despite it being at our literal fingertips. It’s on our screens but not in our backyard. We don’t know them.
We hear and read about police brutality, shootings, bombings, the never-ending war in the Middle East (which almost seems mythical at this point), rising sea levels, 400 missing girls, a genocide day in, day out…and it’s not even that we sit here doing nothing. Some people do spare these things a hashtag or a tweet, lamenting of the way things are and voicing their support on social media platforms. But that’s just it. Unlike generations before us where they did not have the capacity to broadcast their thoughts online, when they had to gather by the thousands holding up posters and chanting for their voices to be heard, we seem to be settling and are satisfied by beaming up our comments into the world wide web, despite the fact that it does not seem to be inciting the same kind of change.
From a critical standpoint, it looks in fact, that we are settling for “feeling good” rather than doing and being good. Those tweets or statuses may make us feel good, but at the end of the day, that’s all it has accomplished. It is a hedonistic gesture at the bottom line, not one of virtue and of true meaning.
We are trying to grasp at a high level of satisfaction or pleasure in trade for the least amount of effort required of us. If we take a moment to think about this idea, it sounds irrational, and at the very least, greedy and self-serving. Perhaps then, it is not surprising that despite all these advances in technology and our way of living, many of us are still reported to be responding “unhappy,” or “unfulfilled,” in polls. Maybe it’s because we focus so much on temporary and immediate gratification. We are so used to getting whatever we want, whenever we want.
When we live in this sort of culture that is driven by want, we start feeling like everything is around our own agendas and projected self-images; all that we live by and for become defined by our social values, quickly becoming reflected in our “likes,” and clicks. As we become more obsessed with our immediate effect on our social circles and our own short-term gains, we become more and more oblivious to long-term consequences. It has come to a point where we seem unable to take responsibility for those things. (“If I can’t Google the solution, and if tweeting to my friends or posting a controversial status on Facebook isn’t going to make a difference, then hell, I have no idea what I can do!”)
It’s not that we are lazy, or don’t get passionate about things. It’s that we’ve forgotten that some things, (some things that are truly meaningful and worth it), take time, work, and commitment. All things that the millennial generation has seemingly become allergic to.
In fact, the development of things that are necessary to individual and societal growth require all three of these things. Few people would disagree that happiness and deeper satisfaction comes from the challenges and cultivation of self, from hard work and sustained efforts and ideals. These are the things that are vital to a sustainable culture, one that isn’t always on the constant edge of burning out until the next new thing comes around.