In this current age we have seen the natural cycle and rhythm of life disrupted. No longer does the working day finish when the sun sets, nor does it begin when it rises. We have created societies where everyone lives by their own means. 24-hour culture is “the city that never sleeps”, 24 hour gyms and supermarkets, instant messaging and social media. It is our constant need to have anything we need available to us at any given time. Most often, this is deemed as a good thing, but I would argue otherwise. I think 24-hour culture is breeding a generation of people who cannot switch off, and damages our interpersonal relationships.
The advancement of technology has been a driving force for many shifts in society. Even things that we deem basic e.g. electricity, and running water, enable us to do what we like when we like. The day is extended because we are physically able to live out of sync with nature. We become production machines. There is an obsession with filling every waking moment by doing something “productive”. Since we are able to have everything according to our needs, we begin to expect it. Even the way products and facilities are marketed alludes to this. Everything is bespoke and personalised, and it is all about you. Except, it isn’t. This expectation is something that can be carried over into our interpersonal relationships.
I have noticed recently how this culture makes us socially unaware. We want our friends, family and partners to be at our constant disposal in the same way that everything else is. We say goodnight to someone on Whatsapp only to find him or her tweeting minutes later, and it enrages us. Why? Because they’re available but not for you. We want 100% accessibility all the time, and do not consider that sometimes other people don’t just exist for us. In contrast there are people who feel as though they never give enough, because they cannot be constantly available. We all know working parents who feel guilty that they cannot give their children 100% of their attention. Either way, we are forgetting that humans are not machines. The self-service machine at your 24-hour supermarket exists for one purpose – to serve customers. You are not a self-service machine.
Not only availability, but quantity has become more attractive than quality. On a materialistic level, we cannot produce quality products at the rate the culture demands. The pressure on productivity, means that now even 24-hours is not enough! So we have poor quality products, in vast quantities to ensure they’re always available. Thus we find that the value of what we produce is lost. We are a generation obsessed with acquisition. We want to have things, and we want to have a lot of them. In Philosophy we call this commodity fetishism. It doesn’t end with material things, it extends to people too. We want to own each other. Social media is all about how many “friends” you have. It’s not about how valuable these friends are. 24 hour culture has contributed to us creating shallow relationships, both because we do not have the time to devote to deep and meaningful ones, and because we don’t care to. As long as you have “friends” or a partner we feel good because at least we have them. However, these relationships are not fulfilling. It just creates an empty image of what we really desire.
We want everything to be perfect straight away. We go to uni and want the girl in the room next door to be our best friend after a week. We want love interests say I love you within the first few dates. We expect perfect, deep and meaningful relationships but we do not take the time to cultivate them. We want to get a promotion and a mortgage and financial stability all by the time we’re 25 at the latest. 24-hour culture pushes us forward at such a pace that we forget we can move at our own pace. The world doesn’t slow down for us so we speed everything up without ever catching up. This creates a sense of underachievement and disillusion. We cannot reach our goals because we cannot catch them, and the goals we are setting are unrealistic anyway because we didn’t set them in accordance to our personal requirements.
24-hour culture is exhausting and all consuming. We have become so busy fitting 48 hours into 24, and being constantly available that we forget to just be. Every now and then we need to take time to stop and take a step back from the monotony of the day to day to put our lives into perspective for the sake of our emotional health.
Christmas is upon us. This is a time of year especially where the culture can take over. More overtime, more fast food, less sleep, constant shopping, and less time with family/friends excluding actual Christmas day. I think Christmas day is the only day in the season where everyone seems to stop, and it’s a shame. We spend the run up to Christmas physically and emotionally running ourselves into the ground, all for one day, before we’re back at it again. What makes Christmas day so special, is that we take our time and prioritise the things we love. If you never get to sleep in (and don’t have kids in the house!) then you can sleep in. We eat good wholesome food, and nobody goes to work. The magic of Christmas is that everything stops for a full 24-hours. True Christmas spirit isn’t about what or how much you have, it’s about spending the time with the people you value most; doing the things you love the most. It’s about putting your life into perspective.
This is something that doesn’t have to be restricted to Christmas day. When was the last time you stopped? When you are boiling the kettle, or waiting in a queue, take two minutes to just stop and be present. You can always find a spare minute here and there to refocus your energy, you just have you make time.