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THE CURSE OF INSTANT GRATIFICATION

Written by Sherelee Rathnarajah Crawford

Approximately twenty years ago, the topic of this post made zero sense to anyone whoever interested in reading it. Also, I am sure; those days, probably, I had been spending much of my time rolling in the dirt rather than typing away at a computer. Anyhow, twenty years later today, what I referred to as “instant gratification” is a forage, and you and I are its prey. Let me take the lead by defining this phenomenon. Instant gratification is the hunger to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment. Generally, it is when you want something, and you want it immediately. You might wonder what would be the possible danger in wanting positive karma on faster wheels. Let me analyze this further.

Social Media thrust: It all started in the early 2000s when MySpace was the first form of modern social media that reached a million active users in a month. If I had to describe “MySpace” to the younger audiences: It was a site that allowed users to customize the layout of their profile page from color and background images to the way the page was structured. And it offers an option to insert content hosted on other sites such as YouTube. Also, it allowed users to interact with friends and non-friends alike, which means you had instant access to people as well as their approval or disapproval over your content. Now, just fast forward through those two decades and think about the number of social media platforms that have created with more or less the same features refurbished off MySpace. We have got ourselves hooked on almost all these platforms feeding our brains with instant gratification. 

Imagine, you post a picture, and the likes and hearts start popping in a matter of minutes (depending on your above-average look within a short period). Your lips sync to the song in your TikTok video gets so many instant views and likes that you end up believing you are a celebrity. It causes you to spark with temporary gratification. What do you think is the motive behind your favorite YouTuber? Why would they frequently remind you to like their videos and subscribe to their channel? It’s because they receive their much-needed dopamine-high in addition to the monetization when their channel increases the number of viewers. Now, let me explain the first-hand experience that I had to encounter from my end. The book I am writing these days was supposed to be simultaneous with my blog posts. However, I have postponed writing the book because my brain yearns for the instant gratification induced by the number of views my posts garner. 

The reference to my manuscript brings you to another vastly important topic, which I can confine as delayed gratification. Delayed gratification or deferred gratification describes the process that the brain undergoes when it resists the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later requite. Even though I am putting effort into writing my book, it will take a painstakingly long time with no quick mood fixes. And I might spend the next two to three months questioning myself if the reward is worth the wait or should I ultimately give up. Sometimes, despite the nature of my efforts, instant gratification will leave me with this ever-present impatience for good results. 

The alteration of the dopamine level: The surges of dopamine are short-lived, which means you come back to feeling less-gratified just as fast as you reached maximum gratification. Hence, these results continue in you to engaging in less relevant tasks to keep your instant and short-lived happy moods coming at a steady level. Once your brain is comfortable on this sort of a high, it becomes reluctant to perform tasks that give you delayed gratification; then, it eventually creates a loop of action-reward-pattern that slowly takes command over all areas of your life. Therefore, 

  • You expect instant and positive replies from your partner via text messages. 
  • You want your teacher to quickly grade that paper that you know you had answered so well. 
  • You want your goods delivered in one day through e-bay and expect it to be the same replica of the photoshopped version you saw online. 
  • You expect your doctor to prescribe fast-working medication for a broken leg that usually takes three months to heal. 
  • Your whole life becomes an explosion of snappy rewards.

However, the real danger arises when you face critical decisions in life that need time. Most importantly, patience brings you delayed gratification such as, 

  • You cannot spend time studying the nature of your suitors since your brain wants the instant gratification of getting into a relationship. 
  • You cannot spend time on a four-year course to upgrade skills when you can quickly fame out by becoming a TikTok star, who does not need an education. 
  • You cannot wait five years for the business of your dreams to take off and bring you an income.

So, you succumb to whichever means of income that boost your dopamine hunger. And also, you refuse to wait through the process to get your hands on the results. Therefore, the above points are suitable information to define the curse of instant gratification. 

Solution: How do we escape this curse? I do not think we ever can. The human race is already well-bound in its chains. However, we do have a choice in as to what extent we are going to allow it to control us. I feel that self-control should be one concept that needs to be drilled deep in our minds when it comes to using social media platforms. We need to train ourselves to consciously unplug once in a while to let our brains to rewire itself to return to its natural state of accepting delayed gratification. It will be quite a feat for our generation. However, we must concern regarding this matter for the coming generations. We must prove to them the impact of our trouble. Then, they will have very adept role-models who will teach them the skills to cope with this curse.

Let’s start today by switching to crave for “Delayed Gratification.” My solution lies in starting that life-sucking excruciating book. Where does your solution lie?

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