Back when we were growing up, we had to do everything ourselves. If we wanted to find an answer to something, it wasn’t as easy as ‘Googling’ it, we had to search through encyclopaedias! And if we wanted to buy some food from the shop, there was no home delivery option that we could organise on our phones – in fact, we didn’t have portable phones. And we’d be damned if we turned up to the shop after 5pm as they’d be closed. We didn’t have 7-Elevens, the beacons of convenience.
What a world away that all seems. In just a mere 50 years, our lives have completely changed. Everywhere we look, something is digital and it’s more ‘convenient’. Everything these days is slapped with a sticker for added convenience; ads tell us how convenient a new product or service will be. But have we gone too far? Are we so lazy that our obsession with convenience will ultimately be our demise?
Convenience is now our way of life and as a culture, we’re obsessed with saving time or making our lives easier at every possible turn. Convenience has the utmost value in our lives, but why? It’s most likely to do with becoming time starved, says Professor James H Wittebols, from the University of Windsor. We all want to save that sliver of time so we can have more time to do what we like. So how did we actually become obsessed with doing everything at breakneck speed? Are we impatient or just savvy time savers?
Professor Wittebols believes we incorrectly perceive convenience as a way to save time, when it can be the opposite of a good thing. If you go through a drive-thru and then try and eat and drive, you can be distracted by multi-tasking, thus making the convenience null and void. You could run a red light or have a car accident just because you were in a rush to save time. And isn’t that so true – how many accidents are caused by people who just want to get somewhere quickly (even if it’s just to an uneventful grocery shop) and are so impatient they get distracted? Probably quite a lot.
So, aside from the obvious downsides to convenience, how will our obsession affect our grandchildren in the future? There are long term costs of convenience that we barely consider. We save time but what about the social and environmental side effects?
We demand bottled water because we perceive filling up a reusable bottle and keeping it chilled as an inconvenience. This in turn pressures large bottled water companies to produce more, meaning they don’t have time to ensure every bottle is recycled. It wouldn’t be efficient for them and it wouldn’t be affordable for us so there is more and more plastic being created and wasted. Professor Wittebols asked, “We are all frogs in a very slowly warming kettle – will we be smart enough to stop it before it starts to boil?” and it’s an interesting question to think about.
According to Professor Wittebols, there are 3 main consequences of convenience:
We don’t have enough emphasis on recycling in our households, with some viewing it as too much effort, thus the cycle going around and around
The most expensive something is, the more you have to unwrap, and the more waste there is. With more online shopping, there is more packaging and more pollution.
Short cuts everywhere, elevators that go up one floor and electric everything. New cars now come with a slow-closing boot so you don’t have to close it yourself.
But the search for quicker, faster ways is really nothing new. Once we opened the door the convenience, we have seen its impacts even at a basic level. No longer do we need to check on our friends because they check in on Facebook. We forego speaking on the phone as it’s too much effort, instead sending a smiley face emoji or short message instead. And don’t get me wrong, convenience shouldn’t always be confused with laziness, as some conveniences are actually brilliant and great ways to save time. Computers are fabulous tools and have changed our lives for the better. But perhaps that should remind us that convenience needs to add value to our lives and not replace an experience just because we can’t be bothered
Life is too short for doing things by halves and we owe it to our friends and family and ourselves to make that extra effort, whether it’s recycling more or taking the longer path.
What do you think about convenience? What is the most convenient thing in your life? How did it change your life? What is one convenience you could do without? Tell us below.