I’ve been thinking about this sense of immediate availability that has pervaded our culture. I think we’ve all heard a lot about the instant gratification that we have become accustomed to. Cue old person hissing, Booooo, kids today…
I notice it with students more and more each year. It appears in the general lack of attention in class:
“Please double-check to make sure your names are printed in the books before you return them. I can’t give you credit for returning the book without your name in it. Are all your names in the books?”
Five minutes later…
“Ok, so I got back six books with no names. Who didn’t write your name in the book?”
It also comes up in their inability to stick with something. When asked to research a topic on a database with thousands of articles:
“Ugh, I can’t find anything. There’s nothing here for my topic.”
“How many articles did you read?”
“The first half of this one.”
The ugly truth is that I notice it in myself as well. When browsing through Facebook on my phone, if I tap to open a photo or video and it doesn’t open in, I don’t know, two and a half seconds, I close it. “Baaah, nevermind.”
But now the worst part is I see it in Nolan, and he’s only two and a half. Nolan doesn’t watch a lot of television and when he does, he watches the same two or three things. We keep a bunch of Sesame Street and some similar shows on the DVR so that when we feel like giving him some time in front of the tv (that’s parent speak for, sweet lord I need twenty minutes to myself), we can put on a specific episode of a show. In his mind, all the shows he likes are available all the time.
I didn’t think about that having any sort of negative effect until we were upstairs recently and I offered to put on the tv in my bedroom while I got ready. Nolan said, “I want to watch Sid.” I explained that I would have to see if Sid the Science Kid was on at that moment, and he looked at me like I was talking about astrophysics. I could see his little brain working, IF it’s on? Of course it’s on. Push buttons on the remote and pass me a binky. Needless to say it wasn’t on. After I put on something else he just kept asking for the specific shows he wanted, “I want Rosita’s grandma Sesame Street. I want Elmo’s grandparents Sesame Street.” I explained that we have those saved downstairs, but I’m fairly certain he thought I was lying to him.
Now this has spilled over onto music. He has finally taken pity on us and started asking for music other than Music Together, but the concept of the radio is totally lost on him. If he asks for “I Don’t Care,” I can play it from my phone. If he asks for “Pompeii” or “Gone Gone Gone,” I say it’s not on the radio right now. Again, totally puzzling to him.
Do I pretend iTunes doesn’t exist because I’m going to create an impatient monster, or do I embrace the availability of everything? Dr. Spock didn’t cover this in his books.