I'm an email junkie. I've had no less then two email accounts in the last six years. I reply to almost every single piece of mail as soon as I receive it. I have single-line email conversations with friends at work across town. I write diatribes and confessions to friends in other states.
I'm also addicted to ICQ. My contact list is comprised of about 25 people, most of whom I chat with daily. I discuss technology with co-workers in Cleveland and Indiana. I plan gaming strategies with friends in Maine. I offer technical support to a buddy in St. Louis. I've even chatted with a co-worker while he was in Yokohama, Japan! Rarely does a night go by without me being in instant contact with many people.
I've grown quite accostumed to this instant communication available to me. I find myself frustrated if I'm not able to bounce an idea of a friend while sitting in my cubicle at the office. I grow restless if none of my friends are online to coordinate a quick match of TRIBES. I feel disonnected if I'm unable to check my email for more than a few hours. Yes, I am an instant-gratification junkie.
But how many others are, too? How many people spend hours on the telephone? How many spend hours in front of a television, flipping mindlessly through channels in search of some stimulating program? How many people go to the movies with their families, instead of playing a board game or taking a walk? I think modern culture propogates the "quick fix" as a commodity more than another other.
Our culture today encourages us to waste our lives watching the drama of other people's lives unfold on a small box in front of us. Hell, our culture encourages us to get ever larger boxes to watch said drama unfold, as if this will somehow increase our pleasure. Whether that drama be a soap opera, or a sporting event, or Jerry Springer, we are encouraged to become passive observers because it's the quick fix. If you're bored, it's so easy to find an engaging episode of Springer, or Judge Judy, and laugh at someone else's misery - staged or otherwise.
And when that becomes boring, you're empowered to seek alternate stimulus with nothing more than the pressing of your thumb. The remote-control, the greatest of the "quick fix" solutions, has been a lifesaver to bored people the world over. No longer do people have to labor to the television and turn a knob. I lump into this category, also, the cordless phone (and perhaps even the cellular phone, but that's a whole seperate diatribe). The cordless phone allows us to stay firmly planted in front of our television, remote control in hand, and still be connected to those loved ones who insist on calling during our favorite program.
This culture of quick fixes has become so pervasive that it is tearing apart some of the most fundamental institutions in civilized life. I've seen two marriages fall apart because one or both members of the couple failed to recognize the life-commitment present in their vows. As couples hit a stumbling block in their relationship, popular culture tells them that a fix is just around the corner! Yes, you too can avoid all marital strife and compromise for the low low price of 19.95, thank you very much, pay at the window! How many people recognize what it means to commit yourself for the rest of your life to another human being? This means that when your spouse does some boneheaded thing again and again that you take steps to resolve it. Very very few of the problems present in most marriages are unsolvable. A solution may not be around the corner, but that doesn't mean one should nullify their vows. Of course, I also believe that the things you work hardest for are the ones you value the most; and it's safe to say that judging by our current 50% divorce rate that not many people share that opinion. Or those who do aren't getting married as often.
While driving through Indiana last week, I heard a radio commercial for some place called the Zallman Institute. This place is a plastic surgery clinic, and their radio spot absolutely appalled me. It's one thing for beauty magazines at the check-out counter to declare "Lose Wieght Now! Our 30-day program will have him looking at you like never before!" because this at least involves a modicum of effort, and a 30 day waiting period. But this plasic surgery place sends the message that if you throw enough money at us, we'll have you looking beautiful! How disgusting. And what's more disgusting is that people buy into this quick beauty fix. Lose weight, enhance your breasts, increase your sex appeal become a better person. Absurd.
I know a woman who desperately desires larger breasts. She'll tell anyone who asks how much she wants to increase her chest size. She has no definable reason for this urge, other than it will get her more attention. What I don't understand is that she gets plenty of attention now, because she's a nice looking woman with naturally full breasts (and she's not at all shy about flaunting them, either). She's clearly a victim of this media blitz to create artificial value for artificial beauty. Larger breasts will not make anyone a better person. It won't make the man of your dreams more attracted to you. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the exact opposite of the desired (or promised) effect will come true - you'll suffer from more abuse and leering stares, and attract just the kind of people you don't want. Unless of course you happen to be attracted to selfish, shallow guys who are more interested in looking at your breasts than talking to you about your goals and aspirations.
So many people are focused on the quick fix. I admit that I'm guilty of it, too. I've been single for well over a year now, and lament to my friends how I'd like to find a girlfriend. But I keep hoping one will fall into my lap. Popular culture has conditioned me, too, through movies and television.
The quick fix is, by and large, a complete myth. If it's worth having, it's worth working for, folks.