Earlier this month, the giant online retailer Amazon launched its latest innovation in ‘smart shopping’ – Amazon Dash. With just the push of a button, you or I can order any one of 40 basic household items and have it on our doorstep 24 hours later.
Dash is just the latest in an increasing number of products and services offered by retailers to satiate our every need, whim or desire in eye-wateringly fast times. At the click of our online fingers, we can have our favourite restaurant meal on our table within 30 minutes, or that iPad that little Jonny wants by bedtime. Yes, really.
So how do we respond to this reality of shopping becoming an on-demand, instant gratification experience? As with all new technologies, the benefits are undoubted – imagine the joy of never running out of loo roll! But below the surface are potentially negative impacts that are deeply challenging to the fabric of society, which go beyond the obvious costs to the environment and smaller retailers.
Are we becoming a society that is losing the ability to wait, rely on our neighbours, or simply to ‘do without’? Run out of gourmet coffee? No need to go next door, just click here and you can have it before your next cuppa. And who needs to improvise or think creatively if it’s all available at the click of a button?
If we never have to wait for goods and services, how will that affect our ability to sit and listen to each other, to work through difficult relationships, to listen to our own thoughts, and especially to hear God? For those of us who have children, how will they learn these essential life skills? The implications are profound.
As Christians, this is a particularly pertinent challenge as there is no doubting the value God places on patience and waiting. The Bible is brimming with stories of people who had to wait for God to move – think of Abraham, Moses, or Anna. Patience and its close cousin self-control are two fruits of the Spirit.
Countering this ‘culture of now’ requires self-awareness, self-discipline and healthy boundaries. If we can pursue these, tough though it may be, they will not only keep us healthy, but might also serve as a witness to others that God’s ways are indeed good – even if not always as fast as we would like!
Siobhan O’Reilly Calthrop
Siobhan is a freelance writer, author and blogger, with a background in international development, who now writes about parenting, faith and mid-life issues. Her personal blog is www.everyoneelseisnormal.com.