the pressure of immediacy

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Mobile phone and the Japanese 2

— Image via cocoarmani

First, I want you to apply the following quote from this Fjord iPad post to all modern smart phones –

It may seem like a small change, but a generation which has instant access, quite literally, at its fingertips, will be a quite different generation to that which did not. We used to consider that someone was erudite if they had spent a number of years accumulating knowledge and expertise which they could deploy at the precise moment which it was required.
Given that this information is all now on hand, people will come to rely more on an ability to recall data from the system. Ability to focus, and knowledge of the best places to look, will become the most important facets to consider. These are fundamental changes.

The key word/sentence I’m going to zero in on this time is ‘the ability to focus‘.

We’re losing it. 

Second, I want you to think of that thing where you’re talking at the pub and someone says: ‘Oh did you see that thing today? Oh my God it was soooo funny! You haven’t seen it? No, I’ll pull it up.’

Not only is it massively anti-social (we’ll come back to that), but also – in the time that it takes you to reach for your phone and start googling for ‘IKEA Monkey’ or whatever, the conversation has undoubtedly moved on and no one is actually that interested come sharing time. Forget it. Move on. Leave it.

It doesn’t matter.

These two notes are what, to my mind at least, drive the ill-perceived pressure of immediacy. As in, just because we can look up just about anything on the glass screens in our pockets doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The pressure to know something immediately is balderdash. It is fallacy, claptrap, and poppycock. It is a make-believe blanket of self-made suffocation that we have placed upon our own social and professional situations that really has no need to exist at all.

So what do we do? 

  1. At dinner, play the phone stacking game. I have and it works.
  2. At work, create a digital hat stand for meeting rooms.
  3. At your desk, invest in an NFC-enabled on/off mat for your phone.
  4. At the pub, focus on your friends.
  5. At home, unplug your WiFi; break habits.


Two quotes for you –

‘If we learn to disconnect in order to connect with ourselves, the impact will be amazing’
– Arianna Huffington

‘I wish I’d spent more time on the internet’
– Nobody on their deathbed, ever.


Stop. Think. Breathe.

Stay in the moment.

The pressure of immediacy does not exist. 


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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

19 thoughts on “the pressure of immediacy”

  1. I think of the pressure of immediacy in a slightly different way.

    On a less serious note: How much fun is it to recall who sang a song, what the name of “that actor” is or any other quizzo trivia fact? Why rob yourself of that fun by having it on hand all the time? Discuss, debate and argue with your friends until one of you has to buy the next round of drinks.

    On a serious note: The “first to report/tweet/share” obsession results in misinformation spreading until it is true (if everyone believes something falsely reported to be true, there is no way for the true story to recover from it).

    On a sad note: If you are willing to wait for something, your brain assumes it must be really valuable. Even if it is just information, it becomes more important the more you wait and work for it. If everything is at our fingertips all the time, information becomes disposable. We won’t remember it, we won’t value it and we won’t learn from it.

    Great post.

    James Reply:

    Thanks, Sarah. I think the point you make about the *value* of information (in a world where it is now so cheap) is a pertinent one. Not remembering and not learning ANYTHING from this rich-in-data age is actually quite frightening and, as you say, quite sad.

  2. This is a great post James. I hope it gets widely circulated. And its nice to see. well done.

    James Reply:

    Thanks Simon. It’s both really nice to hear that, as well as have you comment & share. Much appreciated.

  3. Sir,

    Very well written. I have been thinking about this entire subject in great depth for some time now. As my four kids get older (ranging from 7 to 15) their ability to be distracted because of technology plus our (their parents) ability to be distracted because of technology leads to a very lonely, and probably regret-filled, future.

    We take great strides at home now to keep the mobiles away from our interactions, and have begun to give people our home phone number again (really just a Vonage line…but it stays put and people can get in touch with us if they need to). The result is intimacy and HAPPINESS in the house.

    Of course I try to apply these to friends outside of the house as well, but it is a game of inches.

    Excellent post, I love our line of thinking. If you are still reading…is it possible to purchase that NFC on/off mat? I would love a few.

    Cheers from across the pond.

    James Reply:

    Hey man, thank you for the kinds words (on here and on Twitter). You’re right about the kids, I’m yet to make it there on that one but it’s good to know that you – as ever – have a good system in place for dealing with such things.

    Having a landline again? Brilliant.

    In regards to those NFC-pads, I’d hit up @yellif and see if has any spare. It *looks* like his team cobbled them together using Samsung TecTiles. Which again, by the looks of things, look fairly simple to play and tinker with.

    Big love bud.

  4. But the behavior is not just, or IMHO even mainly, about knowing, it’s about sharing the knowledge or specifically, sharing it first. I remember this study done and published in the LA Times about the media-consumption of teens in and around LA, and one of the things that came out was that even the younger teens used knowing something about their shared interest first as social currency. Whoever knew, won. Got attention. And their most widely shared interest was showbizz gossip.

    I can show the IKEA Monkey first. I make you laugh or I one-up you. I give you something and that makes me feel better about us. Watching the actual emotional transaction of this moment says so much about the approach to the friendship, what does each actor want? Who waits politely for the retrieval or moves the convo on to leave the retriever behind, who waves the phone either triumphantly or expectantly? The technology is so clumsy that the behavior around it can show deep fault lines in a relationship to whomever is watching. We have turned having access to the sum total of human knowledge in our pocket into a bonding ritual and, as you point out, it’s a terrible one. Mainly because retrieval takes too long.

    Now imagine retrieval was so assisted by technology itself listening in, it was instantaneous. We’d be one big conversation of idiot-svants, like teen nerds who all have memorized every line of Monty Python, and the new skill would be inserting the right piece of arcane wit at the right time to make everybody else’s knowledge assistant go on overload trying to explain what the eff that guy just said.

    James Reply:

    I read this response and I imagined some kind of weird future where everyone has Harry-Potter-like wands and can whizz up an content at the drop of the hat..

    ‘Hey FJ, I’m sad’

    *whoosh, flick* —

    The Talking Dog Video starts playing in the air between us.

    Is that where we’re headed, really?

    FJ!! Reply:

    Yes. Without a doubt.

    And we will have to wave the banner ad between us away, but only after 5 seconds.

  5. Great post. Most people and certainly most geeks do feel insecure in situations where there is no social structure or activity, hence the clinging to the phone. One remedy is to figure out how to revive structured activities in an overworked dispersed urban commuter environment – those amateur music and poetry and sketching and games evenings our ancestors enjoyed. All those activities build flow and focus. Perhaps there are some clues in Japan or somewhere.

    Another remedy is to combine a couple of the things on your list. Have zones where everyone checks their devices at the door into locked recharging bays. Feel good that your device is getting recharged, while also liberated from checking it.

  6. I think about this often. Particularly when talking to friends who are teachers. How the hell will any student learn how to properly research in BOOKS and LIBRARIES anymore!? If I was 16, and had had the same resources at my fingertips when doing my coursework as today’s do, I honestly probably wouldn’t have bothered either. But now, I am grateful that I had to learn how to research properly. It comes in very useful in my life.

    James Reply:

    I remember reading something about how a teacher deals with (and incorporates) such things in the class he teaches. I’ll try and dig it up.

    Your point somewhat reflects Sarah’s from earlier: if we haven’t spent any time on finding the information, then what value will we place on it?

  7. Interesting, something I’ve been thinking about on my travels. Every day we have come across things we don’t know, the important ones made a list the other either forgotten or wildly speculated about, but probably both.

    But it has made the things we finally looked up much more valued. One thing I couldn’t have done without though is an app which let me write Chinese characters and get a quick translation, the immediacy of a dictionary like that has been useful but a far cry from pub quiz answers or settling a debate amoungst friends.

    Something I’ve noticed out here is that people rely much much less on tech!.. But for how long?…

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