Is Our Generation Impatient or Just Realistic? A Theory.


I am an inherently impatient person.

It’s the quality I attribute to why I’m such a terrible (read: shit) cook and below-average reader. I simply don’t have the patience to wait fifteen minutes for something to simmer, wait an additional twenty minutes for those same ingredients to “reduce and thicken”, and then throw (in the recipe’s defence it usually never calls for “throwing” but like I said – I’m impatient) the whole thing in the oven for an entire painstakingly-long hour. I don’t buy fashion magazines anymore because I’ve likely already deliberated and consumed said trends online. And I always find myself resisting starting a new book because I know it will take me a minimum of three weeks before I find out what happens in the end. I even went through a phase in junior school where I would read the last page of every Jacqueline Wilson book before reading the first page. Criminal behaviour in the literary word.

These confessions all support the popular argument as to what has made our generation like this: the instant gratification that social media has afforded us. We don’t need to walk to the letterbox in the morning to collect a newspaper when we’ve already read the headlines of six different newspapers online before even leaving our bed. But is this impatience underpinned by laziness? Or simply time-saving, realistic behaviour as a direct result of the world we’ve grown up in?

I know I’ve said this before, but it’s worth acknowledging that most of us experienced our formative years during the Global Financial Crisis – a time of intense stress and economic uncertainty for our parents. Nothing was guaranteed and everything at risk. As a result, we were taught to seize every opportunity and take nothing for granted. My mum often said to my sisters and I growing up, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Meaning; it’s better to hold onto something you already have than to risk losing it by trying to get something better.

Do you remember the famous social experiment, “The Marshmallow Test”?

In the late 1960s, Stanford psychology professor Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments to understand the psychology of delayed gratification. He was trying to determine how age and cognitive development affect a person’s ability to delay instant gratification in order to receive a better reward: Put a marshmallow in front of a child, tell her that she can have a second marshmallow if she waits fifteen minutes before eating the first one, and then leave the room. The theory was that whether or not the child was patient enough to double her payout was indicative of her willpower. But in my opinion, if that child was a millennial and she ate the first marshmallow, she was probably just being realistic! If someone puts a marshmallow in front of a millennial, tells them not to eat it and then leaves the room, the smart thing is to eat the damn lollie. Who knows if that person is coming back? How can we be sure we’d get a second marshmallow? What if the marshmallow factory goes into liquidation?! The promise of a second reward is hypothetical at best.

Our generation cooks in a hurry, listens to audio books on double speed and reads the headlines on Twitter. Because we know that nothing about tomorrow is promised, so we might as well Carpe the shit out of this Diem.

Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club