Gratification at the price of death?

Kate Bigam

We are Americans, and we are impatient.

We are so impatient that many cellular service providers added bypass features to voicemail systems that allow us to press #1 to skip friends’ greetings in order to leave messages immediately.

We are so impatient that blockbuster movies, which used to take months to make the transition from theatre to video store, now take only weeks. And sometimes we just order them On Demand, not bothering to wait on video store arrivals.

We are so impatient that we get our news headlines from Web sites such as CNN, checking for updates and pounding our fists on the computer desk when they aren’t there.

When we leave voicemails for a friend and get no response, we want to know what she could possibly be doing that could keep her from her phone. We cherish the DVRs that allow us to fast-forward through commercials, giving us entertainment more quickly.

We are impatient, and some of us are paying a hefty price.

Police recently revealed the suspected cause of a July car accident that killed a car full of recent New York high school graduates. The girls’ SUV crossed the median to collide head-on with a tractor trailer, sending the vehicle into flames and killing the five suburban cheerleaders trapped inside.

The presumed cause of the crash? Text messaging.

Police say the driver, 17-year-old Bailey Goodman, sent a text message at 10:05 p.m. and received a response at 10:06. Less than a minute later, the 911 call came in.

Because there were no surviving passengers, police can’t confirm that Goodman was the one sending the messages. But the terrifying possibility of the senseless reasoning behind these deaths still stands.

The United States has rapidly become a Gimme Society. We want it now, whether “it” is movies, news or communication. When we can’t get it now, we feel lost. That’s why we take our wireless-capable laptops with us on vacation and why we’re ecstatic about the iPhone, which lets us read headlines, listen to music and, oh yeah, take phone calls, too.

I am as guilty as Bailey Goodman was, as guilty as many of you are. On my way home from work, I text friends with plans, even as I struggle not to graze the concrete barriers lining Route 77. I keep my cell next to me at all times, whether I’m on the job or in my bed. I respond within minutes – hours are too long.

I’m not suggesting we resort to technology-free cavemen-style living, but I’ve just begun to wonder: Do we need to be so in touch at all times? For all the good technology has done, it’s troubling to think that the quick-fire communication we cherish could someday kill us.

Next time you’re eager to carry on with your conversation, consider the alternatives. Instant gratification is great, but is it worth possible death?

Kate Bigam is a senior magazine major and forum editor of the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].