A Case for Slower Technology

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The tech world is all about speed.

When developing new software, your goal is to be the first to finish it and make it marketable. (And we can all agree you don’t typically get to be first by moving slower than your competitors.)

When the internet frustrates you, you’re probably complaining that it’s slow.

When a web browser or an app updates and it’s not to fix a glitch in the program, it’s nearly always an update to improve performance speed – installation speed, startup speed, page load speed, download speed. There are endless online comparisons dedicated to telling us what works the fastest. In today’s world everything has to be faster because when we want something, we want it now.

But what happens when we don’t want it now?

“I wish emails came slower,” my roommate said this week.

Now, I’m not normally one to request for anything to be slower. I was born a northerner and a city girl, which means I talk fast, walk fast, and get pretty frustrated when other people don’t do the same. But my vacation tech detox made me realize how much strain I was under because of the constant pressure of incoming mail. So when my roommate said she wanted email to be slower, I realized I kind of wished the same thing.

“The Internet has always been about getting to the information you need faster than you could in any other way.” – Michael Muchmore, PCMag

Technology has progressed to become not only faster but a more integral part in our lives than ever before. The appeal of an email is in its speed; you write what you want to say, send it, and it is in someone else’s inbox waiting to be read almost instantly. On the face of it, this action is great. Quick, easy communication – something we all want. Right?

Yes, until the inevitable conditioning to this technology happens. Because you can send an email so quickly, you begin to expect a response just as fast. And with the rise of smartphones, there’s really no excuse for that person you contacted to not get back to you almost immediately, is there?

It’s really a doubled-edged sword, the speed of this communication. You’re happy that it’s faster and easier to contact people in writing than to put your thoughts in a letter and send it in the mail. But the immediacy of the email has created a culture in which we feel compelled to respond to these correspondences in the same “timely” manner.

I personally find this immediacy stressful. I receive dozens of emails a day from work, school, and my internship that I have to take the time to respond to. When my email notification chimes, I sigh internally as I reach for my phone. The constant email-checking is frustrating, but it’s to the point where I can’t imagine a life without it.

email ghost

The trouble is I know when the tables are turned, I expect the same treatment when I send an email. No response within 12 hours? Did they fall off the face of the earth? Why haven’t they checked their email?

And with thoughts like these on both sides, what can I do but wish emails just came a bit slower?

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