Is Social Media Breeding Brats? Redefining “Real Time”

By: Erika Napoletano


Nothing…and I mean nothing frustrates me more than getting someone’s voicemail. On a daily basis, I hang up on voicemail and send that person an email, text or Tweet.

I want to be able to deliver my message to its intended audience on my timeline, their availability be damned.

As part of a culture that used to be happy with a seven-second delay for our evening news and sportscasts, I’m here to tell you those days are gone. Well, they are for me, at least.

These days, I’m frustrated when I’m not awarded the instant gratification that social media’s brought to my life – and I have a feeling I’m not the only one.

Y’see, Twitter is my social network of choice. It’s open so long as I’m on a computer during the day and goes with me on my travels via Twitterberry. I tweeted half way up Mt. Kilimanjaro last fall and shared Twitpics with my followers throughout my journey. I post pics of my activities or links I find interesting to Twitter, which are in turn cross-posted to my Facebook account via FriendFeed.

Got a question? I can DM (direct message) over 1000 followers and then bask in the gratification of a slew of qualified responses.

Wonder when I’m going to meet friends for a climbing outing for the weekend? I send a text or IM (instant message) and await the few minutes it takes to get everyone’s response.

Voicmail confuses me. I really don’t know what to do anymore when asked to leave a message at the tone.

Platforms like Twitter are changing the landscape of communication and redefining what it means to receive information “real time.” As someone who remembers fax machines and acoustic dial-up internet access, it dawns on me that there is a generation in our midst that has never sent a fax or “dialed-up” to the internet. I’d venture to guess most have never seen a rotary phone. The level of “acceptable delay” between sending a message and receiving a response has drastically changed. But what does this change mean for the Skypers, Tweeps, Facebookers, FriendFeeders and text messagers of the world?

Are we becoming a new generation of petulant children, irritated and prone to tantrum when our demand for immediate gratification through communication isn’t met? One only has to look at the activity during the Presidential inauguration on Twitter to see evidence of the huddled masses yearning to interact. Though there were the few Inconsiderates who consistently tweeted invitations to their webinars or links to new posts or special offers, I can with all glee state that they were told by the Twiterverse to “shut it” real-time.

And then there’s the instance of the downed US Airways flight on the Hudson in January. A bystander snapped the shot that crashed Twitpic (an online photo sharing application linked to Twitter) and scooped the old media with the closest thing to real time this tragedy saw.

Could I be so cliché as to offer that we’re experiencing a paradigm shift in “acceptable delay?” Those who follow me on Twitter know that I’m an active proponent of the power of the network. I ask questions, initiate conversations, join in even more and revel in the electronic expression of my personality, insight and communal expertise.

But I think I’ve become an impatient little child on account of it all.

Whereas real time used to include an “acceptable period of delay” between when I left a voicemail or sent an email (or in the case of my parents, mailed a letter) and received the requisite response, my “acceptable delay” has diminished exponentially. I’ve become accustomed to the instant gratification of direct messages and texts and increasingly irritated by having to wait. Seriously – you do not even want to see me in the “express” lane at the grocery store.

Is social media’s contribution to this paradigm shift in communication breeding a generation of impatience? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Surely I can’t be the only social media brat to be crawling around in cyberspace. Like the caftan-clad woman who menacingly counts the items in others’ baskets while in the “10 items or less” lane, I’m left wondering sometimes, when relegated to slower forms of communication, just what the hell’s the holdup.

Maybe I’m just a brat. But maybe…it’s not all my fault I turned out this way.

Erika NapoletanoGuest Blogger:Erika Napoletano is a climber with a writing problem based in Denver, Colorado. When she’s not pounding-out a freelance assignment, she can be found climbing both natural and plastic rock, the ice of Colorado, or one of may glaciated mountain peaks. She likens jalapeño poppers to deep-fried pieces of Mecca and is highly disappointed that she has yet to find a bar to serve her a mojito in a Nalgene glass. She has more climbing gear to her name than ex-husbands (to-date), and is always on the lookout for the offbeat, inspiring, and quirky things in life that bring an unexpected smile to her red head. Follow the self-professed brat on Twitter @RedheadWriting and check out her SEO copy writing and social media blog at Red Head Writing.

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5 Responses to “Is Social Media Breeding Brats? Redefining “Real Time””

  1. Alysson Says:

    I am struggling with the same issues myself. I am so aware of it, in fact, that – despite my love of and devotion to the application – even TweetDeck’s delay in delivering tweets is almost more than I can stand.

    I believe this post raises an even more widespread issue: how to we prioritize tasks when we live in a world that demands immediate gratification a real-time response can mean the difference between success and failure for individuals and companies alike?

  2. Bob Lewis Says:

    This is a great article! This is not as much of a rant as you think. You should send this to business owners in Denver. We all started pacing in front of the Microwave years ago, we all want it now. I can’t even begin to guess how much business is lost to answering machines. This is a real problem for contractors in these times, the days of cherry picking jobs are over. I’d rather have someone with a little noise in the background answer the phone. It tells me they’re passionate about their business, and will probably be good at returning phone calls! You should teach this to businesses in Denver. I don’t think a lot of people understand the power of Twitter. We’re just learning, so we’ll keep following you for your great advise. Thanks…

  3. Jen Zingsheim Says:

    Back in June of last year, I wrote a post asking if social media is accelerating an already unacceptable level of rude behavior…FYI, I think yes. Patience and calmness are just as critical skills to have as the ability to handle multiple things at once and still pay attention to details.

    We all need to slow down and observe what our behavior is saying to others, IMHO.


  4. D. A. Shaver Says:

    I’m with you on the cell phone; messages on my cell phone go unanswered. Email is always the best way to get my attention.
    But how do you respond to followers? I notice you have 884.
    Someone just now while I am typing this followed me and when I followed them back, they immediately sent me a pm wanting to sell me they very same CMS I provide for my clients. If only they would have of bothered to look at my web site or twitter profile.

  5. Erika Napoletano Says:

    @ D.A. Shaver – thanks for reading! I respond to followers by using Tweet Deck to search for specific key terms I track (SEO, social media, #climb, etc). It makes having a large number of people I follow MUCH more manageable and also allows me to consistently engage in conversation instead of observing 24/7. After all, social media’s intent is to BE SOCIAL, no?

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