Monday, January 21, 2013

On Demand: I Want It Now

demand (
To ask for urgently or peremptorily: demand an investigation into the murder; demanding that he leave immediately; demanded to speak to the manager.
2. To claim as just or due

When I moved to Toronto and subscribed to my cable company for a number of services, one was a TV package for my two boys—a necessity today. I soon took note that many channels were so-called "On Demand" channels, that is, you pay another fee to have immediate access to particular shows, movies or cartoons. Now, the word "demand," as the first two dictionary definitions show, is a strong word. It's a claim of right, a claim of urgency.

Now, how urgent can it be to watch a TV show? For most people, not urgent. But, yet, the selling point is that you can "demand" a show when it appeals to you; undoubtedly, it might feel good to have the power to get what you want when you want it. Yet, I am also aware of the consequences of such influences. I do not wish to put a too fine point to it, but the "demand culture" says much about who we currently are. In many ways we have become a a rushed, impatient and demanding society that has accelerated time.

Once time becomes accelerated it's almost impossible to revert to a slower pace (you can't put the genie back in the bottle); it's as if the brain becomes accustomed to speed and instant access, so that becomes the new norm; and afterwards anything slower seems excessively slow. Thus the slower pace becomes excruciatingly unacceptable. If you notice anything about children, it's that they generally are impatient—they tend to exaggerate how long they are waiting for someone or something to happen—a minute seems like an hour; five minutes seems like an eternity. I see it in both my 10-year-old and four-year-old sons. I am sure it is common.

The common explanation is they are children, and they will eventually outgrow such impatience when they become adults. I am not so sure; there are adults who exhibit signs they are still children, immature in their development. It might be a generational thing. If so, we might soon reach a point in an "On Demand" society where the speed of delivery is unsuitable for a generation who have become accustomed to accelerated time. I sense that day is fast approaching. What happens then?