Anyone able to reflect on this, based on years of personal experience or through research, knows that one of the biggest evolutions since the latter half of the twentieth century has been the speed of communications. Technology has become an indelible, intrusive catalyst of delivery; combined with more recent omnipresence of the internet and social media, has meant being part of a revolution in daily life around the world.
A corollary not often discussed in depth is the impact on the one receiving the quicker input. Our need to react faster is now also a norm.
Consider the implications.
For one, having less time to cogitate the information input means that there is more pressure on the receiver trying to collate the important points. These points come in various shades of fact and opinion. Meanwhile, one’s focus, judgement, and stamina are put to the test continuously.
Plus, there is the corollary aspect: the receiver is often expected to respond in kind, which could include needing to be quick about it. On this basis alone, the challenge to be beneficially accurate in responding directs correlates with the amount and clarity of input one faces.
Since virtually no one can absorb all inputs, there is going to be bias in the results of one’s considerations. Moreover, ‘tuning out’ of what is deemed excessive is good for mental health, but contributes to bias, inevitably and understandably.
For those who prefer a more pastoral lifestyle, opportunities are inevitably slipping.
Geography is not what it used to be, neither completely a barrier nor a gateway. For example, nowadays in Canada, citizens in all parts of the country, including the far north, expect to have internet access, and at reasonable server speeds. It is easier to find people who periodically ‘go off the grid’ on purpose than to find those who by choice or happenstance don’t have it. Perhaps in this regard, citizens in many non-western countries retain an advantage; they face fewer inputs, distributed less quickly, and so probably less abrupt and imposing.
In short, both time and distance have shrunk under the imposing metrics of the western lifestyle. That said, reaction times need to be culturally adaptive.
Prioritizing response needs to be juggled with one’s own priorities of the time. In this sense, the same inputs to the same individual or group, received at different times, will produce different responses. In the modern world, nothing is static.
Consider the range of reaction times deemed acceptable in such everyday situations as:
- Answering a phone call versus a text versus an email
- Answering snail mail, especially if it’s a bill or other request for money
- Following up necessary repairs or maintenance in the home or car
- Following up treatment for diagnosis of health issues of self or family
- Responding to problems of our extended family and friends
- Juggling professional and personal interests
These are a few examples of what we find on the rungs of priority, knowing that they sit on a very long ladder.