Pressed For Everything

We’re pressed for time and required to work. All in the name of progress.

The more time we have, the less we end up with. Having more time allows us to create and produce growing amounts of content to consume.

We fear missing out. Vicious cycles destroy us with every productive move we make.

Judy Wajcman’s new book, “Pressed for Time”, begins by describing the way we feel our lives are somehow losing time:

“There is a widespread perception that life these days is faster than it used to be. We hear constant laments that we live too fast, that time is scarce, that the pace of life is spiraling out of our control. Phrases such as ‘high-speed society,’ ‘acceleration society,’ ‘time famine,’ and ‘runaway world’ portray more and more aspects of our lives as speeding up.”

Wajcman goes on to say that technology has given us less time rather than more. Just before writing this, I saw a message from someone lamenting the sight of a young boy sitting at a table with his parents both sat opposite, looking at phones and not engaging with the child at all.

Would you feel the parents at fault, their busy lifestyle, the way technology is changing societal attitudes? We don’t know the circumstances around the example of the child, but most of us have encountered similar sights and witnessed busy people in a rush and focusing on their lack of time.

Affordability for many is based on living in a couple and both bringing in a wage. This, in turn, introduces a need for children to be looked after from dawn to dusk. Worse, those children apparently need to be fed extra-curricular activities just to stay afloat in a competitive world.

Rejecting any of this comes at a price. For some, the need for money is too great. For others, the social pressures of non-conformity are too much to bear. Our ability to choose whatever we wish for seems to be a restriction on choice in all but a few fortunate cases.

Something must give. The question is, what will give first? What impact will that have on everything else that carries on in the meantime? Are we all busy parents? When we look up from the phone or stop and think about the world around us, do we become the small child, alone yet right in front of everyone?

I’ve heard opinions offered that people only have themselves to blame. If only everyone would stop watching so much TV, stop randomly surfing the net, stop checking their emails and messages every few minutes, stop seeking entertainment to fill in every last moment that isn’t their job or childcare responsibility…If only people would stop doing unproductive stuff, they wouldn’t be in this mess.

Is productivity, or a lack of it, really to blame here? I doubt it. There are underlying reasons for the downtime and procrastination. Always a need to escape for a bit, to take a break from the relentless pressure, to leave it all behind.

Our choices of relaxation may not be inspired and they may not work very well, but do we all have ourselves to blame for that either? Again, I’m not so sure.

Marketing, advertising and promotions tell us we need more. They tell us that we’re not good enough. They tell us to change. They tell us we should demand better.

The way forward is the product. Buy this, watch this, consume this. You know it makes sense. You’re one step away from the life of your dreams.

None of this is new. But we’re running out of give.

Habits are hard to break. But habits aren’t the only problem here. Without an alternative vision, there doesn’t appear to be a habit in the first place. What else is there? This is where the lack of conformity makes no sense. You may chance upon another way, but if it’s so unfamiliar to those around you, would you feel confident to take the plunge alone? And even if you did have the drive to do it, how easy would it be with no support network to keep you going?

It’s not enough to suggest that the Internet has introduced every support network imaginable, because you need awareness of them in the first place. When you’re alone without knowing where to turn, you may never find the support networks, even when they are on your doorstep. General community spirit is somewhat lacking. Again, this is not down so much to a lack of care, but more a lack of perceived time and understanding.

After all, we’re individuals now. Individuals in a rush. And we’re pressed for time.

It’s time to press back.

Pressed for time?