Thursday, 10 September 2009

Nothing less than the best

People often say the world is shrinking, and that the rat race is moving faster every day. Such competition to be the fastest, the strongest, the best, brings progress and moves us forward as a race. Doesn't it?

Less than two hundred years ago the world moved at a much slower pace. Horses and carts trundled down roads, people who couldn't afford them walked. Mail was carted, shipped, or couriered to its destination. Documents had to be written and copied by hand, and if you wanted to find information, you would open a book or simply ask someone. Today we have the computers and the internet for that. Fast trains transport us to cities for business meetings, and we're back home the same evening. Emails and text messages are received almost the instant they are sent. What's wrong with that?

My answer: it raises expectations. Not only are we reliant on technology which fails so often, thereby opening ourselves to disappointment when our 200Gb broadband is running 0.5 seconds slower than usual, but we raise our expectations of ourselves. Why haven't you finished that report? Why were you late? The possibilities that modern technologies have opened up no longer seem to be recognised as possibilities, they're now seen as standards which must be met. Where once you might have seemed old fashioned if you didn't have a telephone, now you're seen to be living in the dark ages if your bluetooth WAP mobile phone doesn't have a 500 megapixel digital camera built in that also makes the tea.

Social networking sites have raised the bar for global communications and 'keeping in touch'. Whereas I agree that they are useful for those of us blessed with 300 friends all of whom can't get enough of us, organise tons of parties and other events and post evey single photo we've ever taken to the enjoyment of others, for the rest of us, who have a few close friends and family, and then a number of acquaintances, such sites can be more of a hindrance than a help. Personally, I really don't care what the girl who used to sit three rows behind me in maths lessons had for her breakfast, or which movie my uncle's second cousin's dog groomer would be best in. But if I don't add or accept every person I ever went to school with, all their new friends and family, and their neighbours and postman, then I'm unsociable. There must be something wrong with me, because I don't want to talk to everyone under the sun. I want to talk to the people I care about most and who care about me, rather than pretend as though I give a crap about the fact that someone who's face I know from somewhere but can't quite put my finger on it is hungover from being so terribly drunk the night before.

To me, these sites are no better than a party you go to just to compare yourself to old friends, where you make promises to meet up, write, or at least send Christmas cards, and then forget as soon as you leave that you ever said such a thing. The trouble is, with the 'instant' world in which we live, things don't seem to last very long. We've become so obsessed with the next big thing, that we're in danger of never being fulfilled because the current big thing is always usurped by the sheer concept of the next. Will anything ever be good enough?

With this dependance on modern technology and the expectations is brings, comes raised expectations from ourselves as people. I feel that the expectation is: if the limit is how many bits per second your computer can process, what is your excuse for functioning any slower? Have we really moved on all that much from the 80s idyll of work hard, play hard, rest never? I am only one person, so if you wanted the report/file/booking 10 minutes ago, you should have asked me ten minutes ago!

It's not just in the work place that we are expected to excell. Through the media, namely popular women's magazines, and even in men's (though they're not expected to care as much), the 'ideal' of having everything is fed into our minds to make us feel bad about ourselves. Beautiful, well dressed, toned, successful people lament how tough their lives are, and how difficult is it sometimes to (buzzword) juggle every thing in their lives. On TV and in films, the happy ending is slowly killing our egos. It works on the same area of the brain targeted by the people who left out the egg from an instant cake mixture. It's the aspect of our personalities that tells us that we are in control of the world around us, that we control ous own destinies.

My deepest aplogies for this self-indulgent rant of a blog. Read what you will into it. The moral, if there is one, I suppose is to have high expectations for yourself, and accept that you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself if those expectations are not met. This can sometimes be the hardest thing, but always remember, you're only human, and it's ok to make mistakes. Only by trying your very best in everything can you truly accept who you are and what you achieve.

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