The Problem with Instant Gratification


Or “Why my blog fell off for a bit”. Instant: speedy, happening now, the new Millenials. Gratification: gratifying Instant Gratification: causing immediate joy/pleasure Isn’t that our greatest problem today? We post a picture, those 1 zillion likes (real and/or fake) have to come in the second we hit "post" or few seconds before if they could. We start a business today, it better hit Wall Street tomorrow. We think of an idea, the world better jump on it this second. Or in my case, you blog and share your thoughts, the world better comment on them NOW else you stop. Instant gratification is so prevalent that it is fast becoming the motive and almost the sole driving force for most individuals and businesses. It shouldn't be so.

Before you continue reading, I want you to drop your self defense because we are all suffering from some kind of instant gratification, in varying degrees. Who doesn't want their idea/venture to succeed anyway?

For my blog, I needed feedback more than anything else. I needed to know who my audience was and what they thought of my articles. I needed to know if said articles were useful in any way to my readers. I really needed to heave that sigh of relief when someone said "I can relate" or "this was timely". I needed to know what changes to make. Now, your reason for needing instant gratification might be different. It could be for monetary satisfaction (who isn’t struggling financially?), physical awareness and approval or just for the fun of it. But one thing we must understand is that there is a downside to this now, now, NOW attitude that is plaguing us millennials. So there's no downside in wanting to know but the downside is in wanting to know it NOW. Got it?

To categorize instant gratification, I didn't have to reach too far. I broke it down into 2 categories because the truth of the matter is, if it’s not white, it’s black; if it’s not bad, it’s good, so 2. Now pick your tray and have a seat, let's talk.

  1. Instant Gratification for Feedback
  2. Instant Gratification for Approval

  1. Instant Gratification for Feedback - The less addictive do-better effect

Walk out and talk to any company's social media representative who knows his/her job well. He/she would agree that with today’s social media craze, positioning, not hard advertisement matters most. Positioning means that your company and your products are well within range of your customers and well in view AT ALL TIMES. It means that as we open our Instagram, Facebook, Twitter apps, we see your posts first. It means that you constantly position your content, telling us what your company has to say so often that we don’t forget who you are, except of course, you are one of the big players already. Don't be deceived. The big players are constantly on the move and both types of instant gratification propel them: approval because they want you to like (not the button) their products and/or services, and feedback because they want to know how to serve you better (or how to drain you more frequently, whichever comes first :D ).

For this blog, my problem was the lack of feedback. Being a writer - or someone who just loves putting words on paper because writer might be too much of a title right now - I needed to know where those articles stood. I hate to say this, but in retrospect, I realize that I thrived on feedback. Those few comments, those texts from friends, those emails from readers telling me that I was doing something good and on a few occasions, telling me what I could do better, was a great driving force. If you are an avid participant in my journey, you will see that although my blog posts were not forthcoming in the second quarter of this year (2015), I never really stopped writing. My Instagram page, an obvious channel of instant gratification made it quicker and easier to share my thoughts as short lines accompanying pictures. What would have been amazing was if I had actually turned those posts into full articles because they are now lost in the rubble of Memkoh's timeline.

On the contrary, some of them were really just what they were: short bouts of inspiration that needed to be shared when they were shared. But for those longer posts I still haven't expanded on, it pains me because as hard as I may try, I can't quite go back to replay what I was feeling in order to churn out a cohesive article. When I traced the possible reason for my lack of articles, I realized that not hearing what my audience had to say impacted my writing process. I wondered if they wanted to hear me at all and quietly concluded that they didn't. I talk about comments a lot because I prefer to communicate, share ideas with people and have healthy debates. And these don't happen when like buttons are pressed.

So when the comments stopped rolling in, for me, it felt like I was constantly hitting a dead end, not once, not twice. It felt like I was talking to myself, though my blog stats (which I rarely check) said otherwise. I didn’t know what I was doing right or what I was doing wrong and needed improvement. I needed feedback so that I would not be repeatedly making the same mistakes without knowing. And coupled with everything I've had to deal with, I reclined. And my stats declined.

Today, although I remain grateful for not putting down my pen entirely by sharing those fleeting thoughts on Instagram and scrap notes here and there, I am happy because I now know that a lack of comment does not necessarily mean you are doing something wrong or that your work is excellent either. It may very well mean “we are looking and we hope you keep up the good work”. Or as my friend told me, it may be the naysayers hooting “we too are looking and can’t wait till you break”. Either way, you will never know until you shift your focus from "Why am I not getting feedback" to "What can I do to constantly improve my work and myself?". The latter is all you should focus on as leaning on receiving those encouragements or criticisms to further your work will only cripple you when they are not forthcoming. Be your best cheerleader and your worst critic.

2. Instant Gratification for Approval - The addictive Feel-good effect

Instagram. Twitter. All social media outlets. Throw them into a bag and shake them vigorously. What do they make? Noise! It's all noise, folks. Good noise, bad noise. Healthy noise, ill noise. Inspiring noise, vibe-killing noise. Noise is noise. And the moment you realize that it's all noise, you'll be able to tune out the noise when you don't want to hear any of it and occasionally tune in and adjust the frequency to one you can tolerate.

To the people who knowingly or unknowingly seek instant gratification for approval - which in a way is a form of feedback, but a more damaging kind of feedback where if not received, can greatly deter a sense of person and damage one’s self esteem – I would say look inward a little bit more. Stare at yourself in a mirror and talk to yourself. What is it about you that hasn’t made you “run out of your body?" And trust me, if you haven’t yet run out of your body, it is because you have many more reasons to stay in yourself AND BE yourself. Selfies are great and they are fun, but when they are all one can find on your social media page, it gives rise to a lot of questions, my favorite one which is "What is he/she overcompensating for?" Of course we love giggling at those "slaaayyyyyy, kill'em, yaaasssss for the gawds" comments our friends leave, but if you live for them, you might die searching for them. I see so many people seeking approval about their looks on social media and the likes. Seeking approval is akin to obtaining permission and you need not seek permission from anybody to be yourself.

In conclusion, of course there are those times you want to be sure that what you are putting out is good content, in which case I would say, yes, instant gratification can be a good thing to fuel your desire to put out more hopefully great content. Notwithstanding, it is a drawback to even set foot with such a mindset as you won’t always get feedback immediately. Additionally, you might get feedback that deters your next move or brings one of your future plans a bit closer, messing with your timing and positioning.

If you're looking to propel your idea, understand that what you start may not catch on till after some time. You need to be patient through the process and use your sense of judgement to modify your work as needed, while keeping up the good work if you are certain you started out on the right foot.

Take home points.

  1. Positioning for companies and “packaging” for individuals though important, are fleeting.
  2. You can be a “yes” today and a “no” tomorrow in people’s minds, without reason. And they will move on to the next person.
  3. But if you are always a “yes” to yourself, there’s no one stopping you.

We are back to normal programming here, God-willing. It’s easy to fall, but harder to climb. Are you ready for your climb? -Memkoh