At the same time, the perceived value of temporal distance seems to have eroded a bit in our modern age of ease and convenience. Over the past 30 years, Quick-And-Easy has become the new Good, and convenience confers more value than something that’s challenging, arduous, and takes a lot of time. Nowadays, we can actually become outraged if we have to wait more than a few seconds for a web page to load, or if we have to stand in line at the grocery store for more than two minutes. In mainstream circles, temporal distance has lost much of the value it once had; time and effort has morphed from perceived investment to bemoaned waste. So much comes so easily to us, so immediately, the slow stuff actually feels less desirable and backward, like a relic of a bygone age of barbaric crudeness. It also pisses us off.
Conceptual distance has taken a bit of a hit, too, in popular culture over the last 30 years or so. The television soundbite has shortened our preferred processing time to the space of seconds rather than the minutes or hours or days or weeks spent by our forebears. The speed with which web pages render, combined with the distractions of “shiny object” ads and links, easily sucks us down an attentional rat-hole of ever-faster clicks and connections. Who wants to sink the time and energy into making sense of complex issues, when you can read a quick “listicle” giving you 10 things you should / should not know about such-and-such an issue, along with five reasons you should care?
We grow impatient with concepts that have to be explored in depth, and we look for quick and easy ways to gain what feels like mastery over complex subject matter. Facebook posts, Tweets, blog posts, Cliff’s Notes, cheat codes, shortcuts, and life hacks are now much more en vogue than sitting down with a 600-page classic tome and working your way through the material over the course of weeks, even months, reading supporting literature and commentary, taking copious notes, and really pondering what is there. We are so inundated with a constant flow of information – much of it impossibly complex – that unless you have a quick way to understand what’s going on, it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed and feel like your life is spinning out of control.