The “I Want It Now” Generation

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Otherwise known as the “Me Me Me Generation” (Sharma, 2014), the millennial generation strikes many with their attitudes and behaviors.  The first millennials were born in the early 1980s when child abuse and child safety started to become hot topics of discussion.  As a result divorce rates, violence against children, and abortion fell steadily, as parents made sure that their children weren’t going to suffer from a lack of self-esteem or attention. Thus, the millennial generation became what the media often refers to as “narcissistic.” These millennials were raised at the center of attention, as parents put their children in the middle of the family with their parents orbiting around them. Celebrating their every move, it was nothing out of the ordinary for parents to give overwhelming praise for the smallest of accomplishments. They have had every bit of their parent’s support and undivided attention. Every moment of their lives was documented by their very own “momma” and “paparazzis.” They have had their opinions so valued growing up at home that they could not help but to expect the world to see them this way (Hubert, 2014).  This style of parenting has even garnered its own name: “peerenting.” That is, parents today are more peers than parents (The Learning Treehouse).  Simply put, parents started to cater toward their children despite the fact that this was the antithesis of the way their parents raised them.  With all of this adult attention, it is no surprise that this millennial generation has developed a sense of specialness.  And as a result, their actions, thoughts, and behaviors have followed suit.  It is this generation that supports the large revenues of many Silicone Valley businesses that offer people faster ways of doing things, ultimately enabling their need for patience. With a culture switch that effects a person’s life from birth, many scholars have looked into what difference this treatment might make down the line. This generation expects everything they do to be fast, easy, and convenient, as their time is the most valuable resource in their lives. With the backing of both scholarly and non-scholarly sources, I strive to entertain the idea that their impatience for everything they desire has become a necessity rather than a convenience.  In doing so, I will furthermore support the idea that when people are presented with easier, faster and more efficient ways to do things, they will always take that route.

Significant improvements in technology over the last 20 years or so have perhaps made patience unnecessary in the modern world. Think about it, one can make credit card payments, get a taxi, talk to a friend across the world, or even check their mail – all of this online, right from their home, and within the matter of seconds. As technology grows, our behaviors change and adapt to the revolutionized world around us. It seems that people have adopted a need for instant gratification that is guided by modern technology, but they ultimately expect it in all facets of their life.

However, although instant gratification is the result of high-end technology that provides us with a much easier lifestyle, there are some limitations to it. Take for example the longitudinal psychology study done by Dr. Walter Mischel that addressed exactly this. Dr. Mischel first conducted an experiment with preschoolers to see how long they would willingly wait to receive a treat. Specifically, the preschoolers were told that they could receive a treat at that moment, or they could wait 15 minutes to have their treat doubled. The results of this study showed that less than one third of the preschoolers were able to wait to receive a greater reward. The video below replicates a demonstration of the exact study done by Dr. Walter Mischel.

Dr. Mischel studied these same students 20 years later and found that the preschoolers who were patient enough to wait 15 minutes doubling their treat were more intelligent, had higher SAT scores, had more self-control, had better abilities related to concentration, and were less likely to be overweight adults (Discovery). Thus, it appears that delayed gratification contributes to a healthier lifestyle and overall well being. More importantly though, this proves that patience and self-control should be a cherished and practiced value by all. Given the results of Mischel’s study, it is genetically troubling to possess patience, and with a revolutionized world of technological advances, it provides for an environment where patience is even harder for people to conquer.

In addition to the positive effects that Mischel found in his study, scholars such as Jaime Cundy have found a relationship that exists between patience and decreased stress levels – one that directly correlates patience with an overall improved way of life, and impatience with greater stress levels. A psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, Cundy narrows her focus towards her experience of spending many years living, working, and traveling around the continent of Africa. She noticed something very different there. The people she encountered were not afraid of losing time, and were living much more in the present moment. In her article, The Beauty in the Beast, Cundy discusses her adaptation to the countries of Africa she visited, and how she was ultimately forced to let go of her rigid time schedules. She references in her article that meetings scheduled at a specific time would start at least two hours late. Coming from a fast-paced American society, where people cannot even wait two seconds for a streaming video to load (supported by research later in this post), she came to a fork in the road. She could either adapt to the culture of the African lifestyle or remain frustrated throughout the duration of her stay. She found that when she began to adapt, she was able to better appreciate the time being spent in those present moments. This equipped her with the ability to focus on her given tasks at hand much more than she was able to in America, as she was not anxiously awaiting the next step of life’s many obstacles and challenges. When she returned home, she concluded that the pace of life in America is simply too fast. So fast, she states, that many Americans do not appreciate the present moment, as they are thinking about their next task in life (Cundy, 2012). The rushed pace of the American culture gives its people the feeling that they are constantly behind and will never be on top of all of their work. It is this exact reason why Karen Paullet found in her experimental study that subjects between the age of 30 and 39 have taken work related calls while on vacation.  Even on vacation, a distinguished time for relaxation and living in the present moment, high-paced Americans prove that they simply cannot detach themselves from their busy lives (Paullet, 2010).  But, the novel contribution of Cundy’s article is that it reveals the benefits of slowing down, especially in a fast-paced American society. With the mastering of patience, not only does a person gain the ability to complete his or her tasks more efficiently and effectively, but one can decrease the level of stress in his or her life. Thus, understanding the side affects of the constant pressure of an instant gratification culture is indeed important. It is only when we recognize the fast paced world we live in that we can see how hectic our lives really are.

Another study done by a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Professor Ramesh Sitaraman, examined how long people would wait for a video to load on a computer. The picture below is a graph that displays his findings.

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One of the most significant parts of this graph shows that people displayed impatience only after two seconds. That is, if the video was not completely loaded after two seconds, the participants in the study chose not to wait for the video to load. Furthermore, after one half of a minute almost all of the participants in the study displayed impatience by deciding not to wait for the video to load. Taking the inferences of this study into account, it is very logical to believe that Internet speeds have risen so much that people expect for their wait time to be almost none. Advancements in technology have provided people with these high expectations that ultimately deplete people’s patience. Professor Narayan Janakiraman best puts it, “the need for instant gratification is not new, but our expectation of ‘instant’ has become faster, and as a result, our patience is thinner” (Muther, 2013). This is most synonymous with my aforementioned words that if people are presented with an easier, faster, and more efficient way of doing something, they are always going to take that route.

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And speaking of easier, faster, and more efficient ways of doing things, let’s take a look at the mobile application business that has absolutely skyrocketed over the past five years or so. Specifically, connecting a buyer to a seller, while taking a percentage of that transaction is one of the most exhilarating businesses. Just look at what has been done. Uber for example is on the cusp of replacing the entire taxi business. As a matter of fact, the taxi business has sued Uber for its infringement on their market. When comparing to taxis, it is fact that Uber is cheaper, more efficient, and most of all, its faster. We will examine the experience from the Uber user’s point of view, the driver’s point of view, and from Uber’s point of view. Here’s how it works for the user. One simply downloads the Uber application on his or her iPhone and registers as a customer with Uber with their credit card and personal information. Once this process is completed, the user simply requests a ride when he or she needs one, and boom! Within minutes, a registered Uber driver arrives at your exact location to take you where you need to go. Once you get there, there is no need to fuss around with sliding your credit card, providing a signature, or even waiting for the driver to print out your receipt. Just get out of the car and go. An email from Uber containing the transaction receipt and a brief summary of your trip will arrive in your mailbox shortly after your trip is completed. Thus, it is pretty evident that Uber thrives on providing the fastest and most convenient driving service for their customers. As for the Uber driver, Uber conducts a background check followed by a general registration process for all aspiring candidates. Whenever the driver feels like making a few extra bucks on his own time, he can get in his or her car, open the Uber application, and slide the “on-duty” button. What’s great about the Uber culture for its drivers is that they can work on their own time and make some quality money. But, Uber has to make money too right? After all it is a business. Simply put, they take twenty percent off of every transaction. And when you have an application that posts millions of transactions, that adds up to a lot of money. Not to even mention the valuation of the application itself. Anytime there is access to a multitude of people, the high demand for advertisements will undoubtedly be there, as companies will pay deep pockets for a solid advertisement to large audiences. Although they have not done it yet, Uber holds millions of users around the world, and it seems inevitable that advertisements will soon become part of the Uber culture as well.  The video below captures an interview with Matt Whiffen, Uber’s operations manager, as the conversation fosters deeper analysis of how Uber works and exactly what it is.

So, it appears that the Uber application is a clear-cut, slam-dunk for everyone. A slam-dunk for its users, its drivers, and most of all, Uber itself. And when there is a business plan that is a slam-dunk for everyone, you have a pure gold mine because everyone is “winning.”  And just like Uber, there are thousands of mobile applications that connect buyers and sellers alike.

Another mobile application that is beginning to see lucrative returns is a company by the name of Postmates – a mobile application based delivery service that offers its users the ability to order anything they want from any store they want in a given radius. Its users pay the price of the item bought in addition to the price of the delivery service, which is given to the currier. And just like Uber, Postmates takes a percentage of each transaction posted on their application – precisely nine percent. So, if you are too busy after work to pick up laundry detergent from CVS, or you simply want a chicken and quinoa salad from your favorite local restaurant delivered right to your doorsteps, download the Postmates mobile application to save the day.  The video below displays a walk-through demonstration for a typical Postmates delivery transaction.

As you can see in this example, the cost of buffalo wings was seven dollars.  Yet, the delivery service was a whopping eleven dollars, making the total price of the order eighteen dollars and change.  The fact that people are willing to pay, in some instances, over 60 percent more just to have the convenience of something delivered right to their exact location reveals something deeply significant.  That is, people are willing to pay for things that are faster, easier, and more efficient.  Taking into account that the newly established Postmates is valued at almost 20 million dollars, it is evident that the demand is high for these business models that connect buyers to sellers, and ultimately provide a fulfillment for instant gratification.

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Given the in depth review of how companies like Uber and Postmates work, it is no surprise that many start-ups are attempting to recycle this business model. Its simple, and it’s one of the hottest business models out there – connecting a buyer to a seller, and taking a chunk of that transaction.  John Mullins best describes this approach in his article in the Harvard Business Review, as he states, “some companies’ entire business models consist of connecting buyers and sellers. This strategy can dramatically reduce the need for capital, because the companies have no inventory and the cost of goods sold is extremely low” (Mullins, 2013).  It’s striking how many tech start-ups are finding new, different, and improved ways of ensuring advance access to customer cash.  Instead of focusing on how to get enough capital from investors, companies with this this business approach can narrow down their main focus to test, reshape, create, and refine their business models to produce a better product for their customers.  Furthermore, companies that wait to receive outside funding or capital for their thriving businesses will often be rewarded with higher valuations in the end (Mullins, 2013).

In the completely revolutionized world we live in today, it is undoubtedly recognized that technology has become more of a necessity rather than a convenience.  In Jamie Pinchot’s research experiment, Technology: Convenience or Necessity, he and his colleagues support this statement by testing exactly this.  His study aimed to obtain information from students on technology dependency using a five page, 39 question survey.  One of the most significant findings in his study related to my argument here is that approximately 60 percent of students revealed that they could not spend an entire day without using technology devices.  Jaw dropping, I know.  He further adds in his concluding remarks, “today, cell phones and other mobile devices are not simply used for telephone communications and text messaging.  Many mobile devices can also access the Internet and a variety of applications, making them equivalent to a pocket-sized computer with wireless Internet access” (Pinchot, 2010).  Since the mobile smart phone is something we can carry around with us everywhere we go, Pinchot suggests that it is becoming more than just a phone. Rather, it is a fulfillment device that is becoming a part of how people go about their daily lives and furthermore how we interact with the world we live in. Advancements in technology are indeed changing our world. And when intersecting the inferences from Pinchot’s study with the the words taken from the article in the Harvard Business Review by Mullins, it can be concluded that it is changing because people are willing to pay for the high demand they have for instant gratification.  The services catered towards a convenience is ultimately becoming a necessity in our world, and is, by default, heavily gravitated to by the millennial generation. Through the Internet and mobile applications, it is finally efficient enough to connect objects in the real world to the people that want them. And this is driven by our expectations from our very own mobile devices giving us the idea that we should be able to get anything we want at any time we want. The only difference is that businesses like Uber and Postmates are applying these expectations to the real world we live in. Patience in the modern world provokes huge controversy because on the one hand, eliminating time makes our lives much more efficient in many areas (Pinchot, 2010). However, on the other hand the elimination of time triggers my expectations to be higher in regards to instant gratification. Thus, the real underlying question beneath all of this; is patience in the modern world even necessary anymore?

From a more philosophical standpoint, we can attribute the overall nature of this developing technological economy to the Users as Agents of Technological Change: The Social Construction of the Automobile in the Rural United States by Ronald Kline and Trevor Pinch.  In their work, the two authors use the early automobile industry as a parallel for the current technological industry.  Specifically, they make an example of how the rural society shaped the early car industry in America.  For example, they supported the description of how farm people used their automobiles or modified them for purposes not intended by the original manufacturers. Often times, farmers would use their cars to grind their grain, plow their fields, or carry goods into town. But over time, manufacturers for machinery like tractors or pickup trucks became prevalent, ultimately creating their own niche in the market.  In this regard, the users of the automobile industry helped to reshape and redevelop further extensions of the automobile industry (Kline and Pinch, 1996). Similarly, companies like Postmates and Uber in today’s society have taken the foundations of the internet culture and disrupted the market with their own extensions of this technological industry.

Although much research has been done in this field, we are interested in the real world applications of these findings. We have thus developed a study that aims to explore this new realm of instant gratification. The purpose of this research study is to search for any clues that will help to answer some of the questions related to instant gratification (i.e. why people cannot wait more than two seconds for a video to load). We will recruit 1,200 Harvard College students, as this will represent 20 percent of the student population. Accordingly, we will print out 1,200 surveys, as each subject will be asked to fill one out. Refer to table 1 (located at the end of this post) as a reference for the testing prompt we will use in this study. The surveys were carefully constructed and are intended to capture their innate level of patience in our participants. As you can see in table 1, the survey consists of a series of questions that asks participants to simulate a hypothetical situation that ultimately tests their patience. Essentially, our subjects will be asked to determine how long they would be willing to wait for something. Once gathering the responses of our participants, we will carefully code each response in order to quantify our findings. We propose that the quantification of our subject’s responses is the best way to arrive at the rightful conclusions we hope to get. After quantifying the findings of our surveys, we are curious to see if there will be significant implications that can be extracted. We are especially interested in whether there will be a positive or negative relationship between Harvard College students and the rest of the millennial generation. Thus, we will cross the results of our findings with the information we already know about the millennial generation with regards to instant gratification. We hypothesize that Harvard College students will follow suit with their millennial peers. But, if we are to find a negative correlation in our findings (meaning that Harvard College students have greater patience than their peers), we suggest the need for further research in this field.   Furthermore, if this negative relationship does prove to exist, our study is not constructed in a way that would be able to provide reason for why this relationship exists.  Rather, it serves to simply prove that it does exist.

We are interested in the learning about what factors play into people’s patience. Could there be something biological about impatience or is it truly just a reflector of our environment? Furthermore, if an unwillingness to wait has become more of an American trait as explored in Cundy’s article, we would be interested in how other cultures treat and value time. Would the people in a culture where cell phones or Google remain non-existent be more patient? A future study that effectively approaches these questions will certainly take a step forward, discovering more about how our surrounding cultures and environments influence the way we act. Indeed there are serious implications for why patience is a value that should be cherished and practiced. But, in a world in which there is always a deadline, and a desire to constantly keep leaping into the next stages of life, slowing down is most definitely lost on people. As I observe my millennial peers, it seems that we are becoming anxious to gain years of experience. But, it is in this desire that we lose the appreciation for the present. In a very real way, time is speeding up for millennials, and it is therefore important that we become aware of the ways in which time is slipping away from young people. Since advancements in technology provide for a much faster, easier, and more efficient lifestyle, it is hard to determine ways to condone this technological revolution while still taking into consideration the importance of patience. Thus, this issue presents itself as a serious concern that will most certainly require further investigation, as it will be a definite obstacle of our future.

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“Anything Delivered In One Hour?” Youtube. Youtube, 15 November 2013. Web. 16 December 2014.

“Big Question: Is Technology Killing Our Ability To Practice Patience?” Discovery. Discovery, n.d. Web. 17 October 2014.

Cundy, Jaime. “Impatience and Unhappiness.” The Beauty in The Beast. Psychology Today, 2 Jan. 2012. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.

Hubert, Anne. “The Question of Attention.” Youtube. Youtube, 29 September 2014. Web. 26 November 2014.

“Instant Gratification Screenshot.” 2014. JPG file.

Kaufman, Micha. “How Company Culture Needs to Adapt to the So-Called ‘Me, Me, Me Generation’” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 16 Sept. 2016. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

“Marshmallow Instant Gratification Experiment.” Youtube. Youtube, 28 January 2013. Web. 17 October 2014.

Mullins, John. “Use Customer Cash to Finance Your Start-Up.” Harvard Business Review. N.p., 01 July 2013. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Muther, Christopher. “Instant Gratification Is Making Us Perpetually Impatient – The Boston Globe.” The Boston Globe. N.p., 2 February 2013. Web. 16 October 2014.

“Patience Screenshot.” 2014. JPG file.

Paullet, Karen. Technology: Convenience or Necessity. N.p., 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Pinchot, Jamie. Technology: Convenience or Necessity. N.p., 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

Sharma, Rakesh. “These Two Problems May Delay Gratification For Instant Gratification Economy Startups.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.

“The Boston Globe Screenshot.” 2014. JPG file.

“The Problem With Peerenting: A Modern Family Dilemma.” The Learning Treehouse. N.p., 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.

“What is Uber?” Youtube. Youtube, 4 February 2014. Web. 19 October 2014.


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