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What happened to our patience? Is Technology the culprit?

What happened to our patience? Is Technology the culprit behind it?Context
Have you patiently listened to your colleague or your team member in recent past? Have you sent an important mail to your boss and not checked in box for two hours? Have you called someone but other party did not pick your phone and you were OK with that? Have you put some post on Facebook and since nobody put any comment or like on it you got frustrated? Are you expecting people respond to your calls, mails, posts instantaneously? What happened to patience – Is Technology the culprit behind it? This is semi-philosophical post but relevant and crucial one.
I came across an interesting article in a magazine called “Awake!” around how technology is impacting our patience. [In December 2012’s issue, article “Whatever happened to patience”]. According to Gazette of Montreal, Canada, some researchers suggest that “Digital technology, from cellphones to cameras to email to iPods, is changing our lives… The instant results we get from this technology have in tern increased our appetite for instant gratification in other aspects of our lives”.

Technology is meant for our convenience but we have directly / indirectly got addicted and have become slaves of it. There is a competition against time. Already faster human life is becoming fastest due to this so called modern technology. There is no room for patience, we want answer today and now, we want response today and now and we want feedback today and now!

Also I came across this report from German researchers with heading “Envy on Facebook: A hidden threat to users’ life satisfaction?” where they found that by looking at posts about joyful moments, vacations, night outs, etc. of other people lives at Facebook can bring envy, depression and frustration.

German-Scientists Findings

It is alarming as number of users on Facebook and other social media websites are growing day by day and users getting frustrated due to lack of attention, envy and loneliness.

Anxiety and Frustrations with modern communication means
There are multiple ways to validate how technology is impacting our patience, but for simplicity let’s consider our day- to-day life’s mode of communication and how modern forms of communication are hurting our patience levels.
Here are few common popular forms how we communicate with someone
1. Phone (Synchronous)
2. SMS (Asynchronous)
3. E-Mail (Asynchronous)
4. Messenger (semi-synchronous)
5. Social Media channels – Facebook (comment or message), Google+, etc. (Asynchronous)
6. Postal Mail (rare but cannot be still ignored) (Asynchronous)
7. Personal visit (if possible) (Synchronous)

Obviously based on nature of subject and urgency as well as formal / informal relationship, we would prefer specific channel of communication. But irrespective of channel and type of relationship, in most of the cases, we would expect immediate response to what we are asking or expecting from the other party and sooner we expect the response, more impatient we are going to be.

To validate my point, I put a brief poll within my friends / relatives circle (of different age groups, professions and geographies) on Facebook and requested them to answer to following 4 questions.

Question Does not matter 50-50 Frustrated
If you post something on Facebook but do not get any like or comment. How do you feel? 30% 20% 50%
Question Tray again 50-50 Frustrated
If you call someone on mobile but person does not pick the phone. How do you feel? 40% 20% 40%
Question Keep waiting 50-50 Frustrated
If you send e-mail to someone and wait for reply. You wait for 2 days then how you feel? 30% 10% 60%
Question Keep waiting 50-50 Frustrated Not applicable
If you send postal mail to someone and wait for reply. 50% 0% 10% 50%

Obviously I cannot extrapolate these results to the entire user base of mobile phones and social media users but look at the possibility of running such poll across Facebook’s 1.15 billion users, Google+ ~340 million users, Twitter’s 500+million users, and 6.8 billion mobile phone users… How many of us would find ourselves in the frustrated state of mind? How many of us would be interacting with frustrated souls on day-to-day basis?

Potential solutions to avoid frustrations with modern communication means

No need to say how anxiety, frustration and impatience are harmful to our lives. So question is what the best ways are to keep technology at its own limits and we control our lives in better way? How can we come out of this Technology trap and improve our patience levels?

#1 Remember – what is important to you may not be important to others. On other hand, you need to analyze what is important and prioritize only important items – respond to important mails, phone calls and social media updates.

#2 Understand – what is critical to you may not be critical to others. On the other hand, you should filter critical and non-critical items and pay attention to critical items only.

#3 Balance – There is personal life after corporate world. Balance best with what you can do in your corporate life and what you want to do in in your personal life. On other hand, set your out of office if you are traveling or on leave, set your voice mail and clean it up regularly, call back missed calls when appropriate and note down actions to be taken once you are back in office.

#4 Respect –If someone does not pick your call that does not mean the person is avoiding you. Assume there is a genuine reason and try again. Respect privacy of others. On other hand, make sure you return people’s call and SMS notifications without failure. They have called you with some reason and its important we respect their calls.

#5 Practice – After keeping voice-mail, wait and wait till you call again. Remember #1 above. On other hand, if you could not call the person back immediately, you may want to call and explain the situation and ask for the reason person had called you.

#6 Share – Your valuable experiences will be useful to others than just information pointers. Share experiences than information tidbits on social media. If there is real meaning in what you share, people would like it. On the other hand, you can appreciate others as much as possible. These days appreciation has become rare thing and if your appreciation can bring joy to someone’s life, just do your best and at least click on ‘like’ button on social media sites.

#7 Follow up – Learn to write email in such a way that, people would understand importance and criticality involved and take responsibility to respond to it. In case you do not get reply, wait for couple of days and remind once again. You cannot totally get away from follow ups. On other hand, if you have missed replying someone, you can call the party and explain why you could not reply sooner. Corporate escalations can be avoided if people respond to mails and appreciate people’s patience.

#8 Let it go – You cannot control how people behave. You can only control your behavior. It all depends on how disciplined you are and how you value others. Sometimes you need to let it go.

Your thoughts please?

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6 Comments

  1. Rixon Mathew says:

    Hi Swarraj,
    A very nice article and indeed the silent killer problem that is affecting the generation that have grown up around this. I feel People have lost control of the will to concentrate and focus due to extreme and micro context switching in an attempt to do more. My favorite quote from the movie Matrix nicely sums up the problem. “The problem is choice”. Less is indeed more as it is important to focus on the critical and important things in life and filter out the rest. I think this needs to be treated at par with addiction to other deadly substance and our reliance on such attention sapping devices should be minimized.

  2. Hi Swarraj, Very nice and important topic, We have build huge big messy digital environment around us, We can not deny advantages of it but sometimes, it makes us frustrating, non-productive and keep us busy in non-critical things.

    All the potential solutions are really thoughtful but I really like last point, we have to change our behavior and let it go for others,

    P.S. I got two digital distractions while writing this small comment 🙂

    • swarrajk says:

      Thanks Amit. What we probably need is some break from the Digital Eco-system around us. Not sure if it is possible for but we can think of taking weekly off from every digital device we are connected with 🙂

  3. Makarand says:

    Swarraj,
    This is really good article with data points. Solutions you mentioned are worth trying however hard it is to implement 🙂

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