Time. There’s never enough of it and never enough to do all the things I intend to do in a single day. Something always has to suffer and it’s usually the thing that’s most pleasurable, such as writing a decent blog post, drawing a funny cartoon or taunting a loft insulation salesman with a hint about an under-lagged crawl space.
Because I have so much to do, I wonder how people find the time to do the things that they spend their days doing, such as posting gormless updates to Twittermefacegrambook. I woke up early this morning to find another complaint waiting for me in my inbox. My on-the-other-side-of-the-world employer tells me that I need to provide instant feedback whenever he asks me a question. I’ve recently fallen into the habit of not loading Messenger when I’m at my desk. The truth is that I’ve simply not had time and I’d forgotten. Instant Messaging isn’t part of my life and it never occurs to me to load that most monstrous piece of malevolent gropeware. Instead I rely on email, the now outmoded method of instant communication which just isn’t instant enough.
I suppose my ‘forgetting’ to load Messenger reveals my deeper neurosis about Instant Messaging which I loathe like a true Luddite. The mere thought of using IM (even the acronym chills my balls) on a daily basis makes me feel like Winston Smith walking into the Ministry of Truth. Every Instant Message is a sinkhole into which I see my privacy disappear. I particularly resent losing valuable time to long meandering conversations in which you’re forced to mimic the trivial small talk of normal conversation instead of getting to the meat of the business as you would in an email. I despise the way IM informs other people when you’re on the internet, as though it’s their business. I hate having my train of thought broken every time the IM client tells me that somebody else is now online. ‘As if I care!’ I cry as the little boxes appear. ‘As if I care!’
Do I want my computer sending out messages to people to tell them that I’m ‘available’? I’m never available to waste time or to engage in small talk. The problem with the world is that there’s too much talk and too little actually meaningfully said.
But that is Instant Messaging: a symptom of the cultural malaise that has taken over the world. It’s a boredom born in a world where surface has taken over from depth, when every news story has to be accompanied by pictures or (preferably) an ‘infographic’. When cat memes make their creators millions but authors struggle to get their novels published I think it’s time to question if our time on this planet is being used wisely. The truth is: I don’t want Instant Messaging in my life. I want Delayed Messaging in which a friend takes the time and effort to write me something long and meaningful, full of interesting things, and requiring effort on my behalf to read, internalize, and then respond.
Yet the sad truth is that I have no option. We live in a new age where there are no set hours to jobs because jobs occupy every hour, where there’s no separation between work and life because your life is your work, and where people tell us that we’ve never been so free yet all of us are increasingly connected, tied down, and always available to chat.
‘Chat’. No other word more concisely symbolises the true vapidity of our age.