Instant Gratification Pt. 2: What about delayed gratification?

Last post I wrote about instant gratification and how digital media continuously feeds our constant desire for gratification whether it be through the quick shot of serotonin to our brains whenever our phones light up with a notification or through the increasingly convenient services provided to us by way of digital media like Netflix’s streaming services or Amazon Prime delivery.

Instant gratification isn’t a result of digital media, it’s simply been amplified by it. The search for fulfilment, however fleeting it may be, by way of as little effort as possible long predates digital media. Instant gratification is usually associated with vices like sex, food, shopping, gambling or drugs. In fact, these basically held the monopoly on empty fulfilment, with most everyone indulging at least once in a while. 

Cut to post digital media…

The scale and scope of sources for instant gratification have increased beyond even the most ardent pleasure seeker’s imagination to the point of normalisation. Food delivered by an app, online casinos and every kind of porn imaginable are now all available at our fingertips, making all the “traditional” vices listed above all the more instantaneous in their gratification. New vices too in the form social media activity mean we’re not only looking for gratification but sometimes merely affirmation in the form of likes, shares and comments. 

I would say only recently has our society reached the point where digital media is so integrated into our lives that instant gratification has become the expectation. So what implications could the normalisation of this phenomenon have on the aspects of our lives that can’t be fulfilled instantaneously? What about delayed gratification?

Delayed gratification is the opposite of instant gratification. It results from things you generally have to work hard for but in the end are rewarded with lasting rather than empty fulfilment. Things without immediately visible results like studying or working out lead to delayed gratification, as well as usually anything linked to self-control. 

Various experiments such as the famous “marshmallow test” have told us that demonstrating patience or self-restraint, even at a very early age can correlate to success later in life, so what could a prolific lack of those qualities mean for today’s society? Since last weeks blog, I have noticed examples of what happens when people try to substitute delayed for instant gratification.

A recent trend in news stories suggests one way: “padding” a CV or even out right claiming a fake degree. Just last week, a top Trump administration official was found to have lied about the extent of her education at Harvard (she’d only attended a 7 week course), came up with a fake UN panel position for herself, and even made a fake TIME Magazine cover with her face on (although it’s hard to criticise the staff for something that’s not beneath the president himself.)

Other incidents include the college bribery admissions scandal in which celebrities and other well off individuals had paid to have their children’s SAT scores or CVs boosted in order to get into certain prestigious U.S. schools. These incidents and others demonstrate a sense of entitlement that is perhaps born of an accustomization to instant gratification.  

This mentality is a dangerous one and can be found to be manifesting in many other aspects of our lives beyond our CVs. As well as education, relationships with others require work that’s not immediately rewarded. Lifestyle changes that will be necessary to counter the effects of global warming will be a massive lesson in delayed gratification. Basically, the world needs to relearn the old saying, “All good things come to those who wait”.