Instant Emptiness

Imagine you are on a run on a summer morning. Not far into the three miles you intended to run, your body is already aching to stop. Everything feels heavy. The air is much hotter and thicker than you expected. A couple miles from the endpoint, all you want is to snap your fingers and immediately be back in the air-conditioned luxury of your home, holding a juicy wedge of watermelon. Despite the temptation to stop and seek the quickest form of comfort, the air-conditioning and watermelon are so much more of a gift after persevering through that hot, summer run. Annemarie Miller articulates society’s growing desire and accommodation to make instant gratification available in her articleWhy Instant Gratification Never Gratifies.

Miller illustrates today’s instant gratification culture: “Tons of current relationships are based on physical intimacy, and they leave the people deeply injured. A variety of dating apps are on the rise, as more and more people try to instantaneously find a random person to date. And cohabitation is now incredibly commonplace. No commitments, no strong sense of self-control, just living on desires.” As good as it seems in the moment, living in such a way can only lead to emptiness. Physical gratifications of this world are constantly passing. Since they only gratify a person’s desires for a moment, people constantly grapple for the next moment of pleasure.

Referring to the well-known 1960s “Marshmallow Study” performed by researchers at Stanford, Miller claims studies show that children who waited to eat a marshmallow that was put in front of them grew up to be “more socially competent, had stronger relationships, and higher SAT scores.” Instant gratification never truly satisfies. Despite difficulties of resisting pleasure in the moment, there is lasting gratification in waiting.