It is difficult to imagine what could possibly be so pressing that Instgram users cannot fathom a Saturday afternoon without having the service at their disposal, but on Saturday Istagram crashed leaving users outraged, possibly revealing a growing impatience with technology and the world in general. Instagram went down for several hours this past Saturday, spurring users of the popular photo-sharing service to take to Twitter to vent their frustration. With Instagram users not able to share selfies and pictures of their food, the hashtag #instagramnotworking started to trend on Twitter.
Analysts of our digital age are often giving doomsday prophecies of a society made up of zombies, who march around heads down, eyes glued to their Smartphones, distracted and impatient. In survey about technology conducted last year by the Pew Research Internet Project, Futurist John Smart said that in a future of advanced machine intelligence, “the first response of humans is to offload their intelligence and motivation to the machines.” However he went on to say that later generations would correct this and “kids will be intelligently augmented by the Internet.” There are many contradictory theories about where our information age is headed and experts are fairly split between envisioning a positive outcome or a negative outcome for the younger generation. Many researchers believe that hyper connectivity will breed a generation of nimble-minded multi-taskers. While others envision a world where the thirst for instant gratification will breed a generation that lacks patience, perpetually settling for a quick fix.
Does the recent Instagram outrage reveal a growing impatience born out of the expectation of instant results? Have we come to expect things to happen in mere seconds, growing frustrated when we must wait longer than a few hours? Experts point out that impatience is most pronounced amongst the younger Internet users who have been wired from birth, who may have a harder time thinking about the long-term.
Don’t get rid of your Smartphones yet, while the Instagram outrage may have revealed a growing impatience amongst Internet users on Saturday, visions of our hyper-connected future are not all those of a technological apocalypse. The moral panic over new technology is something that can be seen throughout history. According to Director of Intel Corporation’s Interaction and Experience Research Genevieve Bell, Western society has a history of panicking over new technology, and she identifies it as “one of the constants in our culture.” When electricity was introduced into homes people said it would put women and children in harm’s way, making them more visible to predators. The invention of railway trains brought with it an irrational fear that the unnatural speed of 50 miles an hour was enough to make women’s uteruses might fly out of their bodies.
Is the growing impatience revealed by Saturday’s Instagram outrage something to be concerned about? Are we headed towards a future of lazy and shallow consumers of information? Are we becoming distracted, impatient, compulsive, narcissists? Or do we simply require a more thorough approach when it comes to educating ourselves on digital literacy? While immediate gratification becomes the default expectation and many worry it will become more difficult to overcome those urges and simply wait, others note impatience as a driving force behind progress. Impatience can be key in moving things along.
Commentary by Sandra Pugliese