Culture of Convenience
A few weeks ago, the whole downtown San Francisco grid was out of power for an entire business day. It was a complete shock to our "system" (I know...that seems sad) . However, you have to understand, it is not too often that we lose power here in SF. We typically don't have thunderstorms or other weather factors that cause power outages. As a matter of fact, in almost thirteen years, I can only recall less than five times when we did lose power, and never for a whole day. So, you can imagine how this day was pretty crazy. I had chosen to do a city walk that day, unaware of the impending circumstances. I had never seen anything like that here before. No one knew what to do, people were walking around aimlessly and confused. It was so strange. Everything, everywhere was out of power. There were no traffic lights, no cable cars, no street cars, no BART (our Bay Area elevated and subway transportation system), no electric MUNI buses, and no wifi! Nearly all of the businesses were out of power due to not having generators like most places back east. There was an eerie and quiet feeling everywhere. It was like people didn't know how to function without electricity. It quickly became obvious that we all take it for granted daily.
As I was walking around, it really got me thinking about something. It got me engrossed about how our entire culture these days is built on convenience. I hear many conversations involving people my age and older about how "Millennials" have so many conveniences that we never had. As a matter of fact, it seems you can't go far without hearing people talk about how spoiled and entitled Millennials are. Generation Xers and Baby Boomers alike say things like, "This is by far the most spoiled generation" "Millennials are lazy and have no work ethic". While I can't disagree with this opinion entirely, I also cannot put the blame on them either.
Just as any other generation, Millennials have more advancements and conveniences than their predecessors. We live in a time where everyday there seems to be a newer, faster version of what we had the previous day. Not only do we have lightning fast internet connections for our computers, but we have a world of knowledge at our fingertips at all times. I know this description is cliche, but think about it. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are calling these young adults spoiled, but how could they not be. They are spoiled, but we all are these days. It's not just Generation Y, Millennials, or whatever else you choose to call them. We are all spoiled with the everyday modern conveniences. The difference is, this generation knows no other way of life.. They have grown up with things like the internet, mobile phones, and On Demand TV. They were born and raised amidst tech booms. They didn't have to learn patience and diligence quite like the previous generations had to growing up. For instance, they never had to wait patiently for the phone line to not have a busy signal to talk to their friends. They never had to rewind a cassette tape, or reel it back in with a pencil when the tape deck chewed it up. They never had to go to the library to look up information that they wanted to know in books. Not to mention, still not having the answers to every question ever asked instantaneously. They didn't have to wait til the end of the week to watch their favorite cartoon as a kid. I mean, how can we blame them for being spoiled? Our generations created it. This was the intention, to make our lives easier and more efficient. This is all they know. Technology advancements have made us all impatient as well as lazier.
It seems you can't do anything without someone telling you "You know there's an app for that". It's true, everyday there seems to be a new app to make your life more convenient. This, of course is even more prevalent living in a city such as San Francisco. We have so many apps that are Beta here first before anywhere else in the country or world. Don't get me wrong, I use so many apps for convenience purposes myself. I use them to maximize my time and to make me as efficient as possible of course. With five children, some of these apps become quite invaluable. I use many of the grocery delivery ones on a regular basis. I noticed a gas delivery app now the other day as well, you can now schedule gas to be delivered to your car at your convenience. "No need to go to the gas station anymore, " is how they plug it. We get our groceries, any restaurant's food we want, any alcohol, delivered all within 15-60 minutes. I can order $300+ groceries from my phone, using a "previous orders" list in about 5 minutes and then have it delivered within the hour. The efficiency that it allows me is amazing. I can "go" grocery shopping and do laundry and write my blog all within the same hour. It is mind-blowing actually, and honestly it has made me spoiled too.
The whole culture of our society right now is all about how can we make things faster, easier, or more accommodating. To be honest though, it's not like this is a new concept. For instance, look at the 70's and 80's, the Baby Boomers were the "Millennials" of their time. Their parents and grandparents thought they were spoiled and entitled. In general, the Boomers were making way more money than their parents could, the world became more materialistic, and people really started looking to technology to make everyday life much easier. The microwave became a very popular item, allowing meals to be cooked in a fraction of the time of a traditional oven. Fast food restaurants grew to new heights. Diet fads and pills claiming to help people lose weight quickly and effortlessly became prevalent. Personally, I feel like this was when the "here and now" seed was planted. The need for instant gratification was born and then it just kept going and going. Now it's to a point where we literally do have just about everything at our fingertips. Now, with apps like Lyft and Uber, one swipe on our phones and we can have a car ride to anywhere in a few minutes or less. With apps like Amazon and Postmates, we can get countless things delivered at our doorstep in less than an hour. These things would have taken us hours to obtain had we went to the multiple stores necessary to do so. We can download or stream any music or video we like within seconds. We can get in contact with anyone in the world at any time via phone, text or video. We ask for something and we get it right away. How far will this go? How much more efficient can we get? Right now, it seems the possibilities are limitless.
We have apps and programs that give us endless satisfaction instantly. This is how Millennials, the "Y" Generation, and our children are growing up. They are growing up very differently from the way we did, but it is up to us to teach them about the past. It is our responsibility to not let them take it for granted. It is our job to teach them how to do things the "old-fashioned" way. This way, they can still survive when there is no wifi (**GASP**) , or when their phone battery dies, or they break their phone. We need to show them the ways and let them experience life without these things every once in awhile to ground them. Switching off for a few days here and there is good for us all. Let's make our kids play outside like we did when we were little, let's teach them how to build things and create with their hands, let's show them how to go to the store and budget time and money, let's teach them how to cook meals and then clean up. Most importantly, though, let's teach them kindness, patience, gratitude, and the other basic values that they need to survive as adults. Let's teach them to appreciate all that they have and the everyday comforts that they get to grow up with. Let them learn that they are growing up in time of privilege, however with that privilege comes a responsibility to stay humble and grounded.