The Culture of Now: Microwaves, Instant Messaging, and . . . Lawyers?

I’ve heard that we millennials are a part of the “microwave generation.” We tend to tap our impatient fingers against the kitchen counter while we are waiting for a TV dinner to finish its two minutes and thirty seconds of cooking. We’re a generation of convenience, but we’ve experienced the best of both worlds.

We’ve seen people who took years to build a music career, but we’ve also seen overnight YouTube sensations. We’ve experienced everything from letter writing to email to instant messaging. We’ve experienced both dial up and broadband Internet. We might not have as much patience as the generations before us, but in defense of millennials everywhere I must say that we do have at least some form of patience. What concerns me is the instant gratification culture of the upcoming generation.

Now before you exit my page, please understand that I am not bashing a generation. (I don’t like it when people do that with my generation.) All I am saying is that the culture has shifted to a point where practically EVERYTHING is convenient and instant. You hardly have to wait for anything anymore. This issue should spark concern amongst everyone who is concerned about the work force of tomorrow.

What will be the consequences of a generation that is not used to practicing patience? I am not saying that the next generation will be devoid of patient individuals. What I am saying is that society has embraced the culture of “Now,” i.e. instant gratification, and I’m no rocket scientist but something tells me that that can be quite dangerous if there is no balance of patience involved.

This is a disturbing thought particularly when I think about the legal field. Imagine being a kid that has spent most of his/her life receiving things almost instantly. Then imagine being told that after you graduate from high school, you still have at LEAST an additional seven years before you can become an attorney. (This is an estimation based on an “ideal” schedule of four years of college and three years of law school. This doesn’t even include the time taken out for real life interruptions, the majors involving studying that takes longer than four years, nor the part-time student’s schedule.)

That seven year time frame may not appear to be so endurable to the “Now” kid. What will convince THAT kid to want to go to law school? And what about the time frame of the legal process itself? Even an amateur viewer of “Law and Order” can tell that there’s some distance between the date someone is charged with a crime and the actual trial date.

The point I’m trying to make is that a culture of instant gratification might not be so good for developing individuals for careers that require endurance. There’s nothing wrong with progressing and becoming more advanced as time moves forward. However, it is important that we do not sacrifice good character traits, such as patience, along the way. Something to think about: Is today’s culture of instant gratification ruining tomorrow’s lawyers?

26 thoughts on “The Culture of Now: Microwaves, Instant Messaging, and . . . Lawyers?

  1. First, I have to say that our present culture of instantaneous gratification affects everyone with a computer, regardless of the generation we grew up in. As a 50 year old, I would go crazy if I had to trudge off to the library every time I wanted to research something for my novel – I come up with ideas constantly which need “looking into” before I feel completely comfortable writing about them. Once we have things as convenient as the internet and portable telephones, they become a necessity. It’s just human nature.
    Does this mean we lack patience for everything? I’m sure some do. But I see your point – it’s scary to think that perhaps the generation coming out of grade school now may not have the concentration to continue society as we know it. It’s like a social experiment that, if gone bad, could spell disaster.
    We shall see, eh?
    Thanks very much for this thought-provoking post. 😀

    1. Hmmm, good point. I totally understand your point of view. When someone asks me a question, I’m quick to say, “Hold on, let me Google it.” Some things are very beneficial and convenient. I just hope that the world looks at both sides of the spectrum when it comes to instant gratification. My hope was to provoke some dialogue about it. Thanks for your response! 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on lindaghill and commented:
    What is instant gratification doing to our future generation of professionals? Read this fascinating post and weigh in with your opinion! Note: Comments are disabled here. Please comment on the original post.

  3. Agreed. In this day and age patience is more than just a virtue; it is an antiquated term. The ‘now generation’ has some big hurtles to overcome and microwaving food is just one of them. You touched on the 7 yrs of attending school can be a life time for some but on the flip side many of those graduating college stick their nose in the air when given a entry level position. Unfortunately there is so much to be said for starting at the bottom and working your way up, but it takes patience. Great post, thank you.

    1. Great point about the disregard for entry level positions. That’s very important to keep in mind when going on a job search. I did a post recently about job searching. While it can be a tedious journey searching for a job, we have to be careful not to turn away from great opportunities just because we don’t want to take time to build. And we can all use a slice of humble pie every now and then, myself included. Thanks for helping keep us grounded 🙂

  4. I agree that the young people today want instant gratification – and in so many ways it is possible to give them what they want immediately. I’m a proponent of slow cooking, reading long books, and teaching the kids to wait in line with some degree of patience.

  5. Every generation says this about the next one. I think lack of patience simply has more to do with being young. As we get older, we learn more patience.

  6. excellent point. it is true in every field, you can observe this by their behaviour, for ex. take their devices now you will see, they don’t know what to do. may be they want to do everything 🙂

  7. I often talk about “Generation Now” with my students. As a music educator, I see how everything in children’s lives is based upon instant gratification, and not really having to earn anything anymore.
    The Arts ( like music, dance) are some of the few places where work ethic is almost a teaching point. Regular practice is needed in order to accomplish anything. You really only get out of it what you put into it. It’s one of te reasons I feel that private instruction in music is so crucial to kids, but not everone gets it.
    Great, thoughtful post.

    1. I totally get it! I think you bring up a great point about The Arts. There are so many great traits that a person can develop from participating in The Arts, and work ethic is definitely one of them. Trust me, I know. Music was a big part of my growing up. 🙂

  8. However quickly we can acquire information and microwave dinners, the process of growing up and attending school still takes the same amount of time – or even longer, given that so many jobs require long educational paths. When my husband and I went to college, that was considered enough education for most salaried jobs. Our daughters, both in their twenties, are in grad school. Jobs that a generation ago might have been accessed with a bachelor’s degree now often demand a master’s.

    I think that what threatens future lawyers more than lack of patience is the cost of education and the debt load involved. It also makes lawyers feel that they have to go with corporate law rather than something in the public sector so there is potential for higher salary to pay back loans.

    1. Excellent point about the cost of education and the debt load! As a recent graduate myself, I can agree that the debt load can be very discouraging. It can be a major deterrent for those who were previously considering higher education. And true, it can make others pursue the wrong careers for the wrong reasons. That can be very dangerous and hinder the development other traits, such as integrity, ethics, and diligence. Great insight!

  9. This is a great, relevant post and the comments are thought provoking! As someone who wrote my master’s thesis on the Four Generations, and present/train on this topic regular;y, I totally understand these generational characteristics. From an educator’s POV, I see how the onslaught of online courses can build expectations (for any generation) to hurry through required courses. Ironically, Millennials PREFER classroom learning in higher ed, admitting they can be lazy and miss the structure. I ask my students this question every semester and this is what they tell me. Millennials also like team projects, so classroom work is better for fostering this preference. Another irony, is that Boomers, who prefer the face-to-face meeting style, prefer the online course format! The 21st century has created a little impatience in all of us.

    1. I can attest to the portion you mentioned about preferring a classroom setting as a millennial. I did my best to avoid taking online classes (though sometimes it could not be avoided) as much as possible because I didn’t like the “feel” of an online class. I guess it didn’t feel as secure to me as meeting a teacher face-to-face. The fact that you mentioned about Baby Boomers though is VERY interesting. I had no idea. Thank you for that insight!

      1. I think it is sad that higher education has had to resort to more online courses to save money and maximize instructors’ time. I may have to teach an online hybrid next fall and I am dreading it. The Boomer info came from several sources in my lit review.

  10. Lawyers? Who wants more lawyers? ha! I understand what you are arguing DR I just am making fun of your example. Personally, I think that money overrides and drives much action these days, so I wouldn’t worry about professional ranks being filled – regardless of how long the course of study is. It is the reward of money at the end that motivates. Having done a Masters not long ago, i can tell you that a great deal of the material is dleivered with urgency. In other words, each class and day becomes a “right-now” moment. And students are being trained that way. I came to class one day and the prof said -“Break into your teams and you have 30 minutes to produce a 15 minute powerpoint presentation on rewards and recognition in HR. I want references, examples, charts and talking points. Choose a presenter and we will see and discuss all of the pesentations by the end of class” (it was a 3 hr class). If that don’t set your a** on fire with immediacy , I don’t know what will. At the beginning of the masters, I (and everyone else) looked way way way up at the amount of work to be done and were scared. But it eventually came down to “Do I have every thing done that I need for tomorrow?” So we saw it as immediate. It just kind of surprised me when the two years of study were over. ha! i was waiting for more.

    Anyway,I take your point and suggest that it is a large factor in a combination of factors that has for sure directed thinking and actions, but in a complex interaction that sometimes will produce opposite results. For instance, those driven to make money fast may opt for a longer course of study in order to achieve a profession that pays a lot very quickly – like lawyers.

    Neat Post DR – I followed over here from Linda’s. Thanks for the thought provoking comments.

    1. Great point! I didn’t even think about those who may be driven to pursue a longer course of study because of money. Guess it’s kind of a toss up between what someone is willing to choose over the other—instant gratification or making more money later on down the line. Incredible insight!

  11. I agree with Kevin (and that’s not just because I’m young lol hee hee). But seriously, impatience usually does accompany youth. As we age however, the experience from those decisions helps us to better understand the quality of important attributes such as Patience. I don’t know about the legal thing, but I do know that Patience is a virtue, and the lack of which can cause a lack of discipline, which is something that most children growing up today miss. Adults are just as addicted to technology in today’s world as children and adolescents, the difference though is discipline, hard work, and skill. We used to love to play outside, but today’s children would much rather play a video game. This gives us access to more skills gained by exercising on a bike and running around with playmates, than sitting in front of the TV eating and playing Xbox. There has to be a balance, and parents must teach it to their children.

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