If you belong to Generation Z, you are likely to have heard this argument when choosing your major at university or your career path: do something related to computer programming or AI; if you do not, you will end up falling behind in the job field for your lack of efficiency and use of automation.
“You have to learn to make use of machines and robots before their speed surpasses yours,” my parents had told me. “Otherwise, you will be replaced by them. This is the sad reality of an automatic era.”
And in many ways, this reality has changed our lives for the better. As a Millennial, I am a witness to many technological improvements over the past 2 decades. I have seen relatives who live overseas chat happily with their family on Skype, which was later replaced by Facetime without suffering the vicissitude of maintaining long-distance relationships that dominated the lives of many separated families. I have turned to the Internet for homework help whenever my school could not be of assistance, unlike many generations that came before me, who could only turn to the public library if no teacher was available. Yet, as convenient as these benefits are, I have also come to the realization that, as the number of my birthday candles slowly added up to bigger sums year by year, the world has moved on from Blackberry to iPhone and replaced Snapchat as the new Facebook all for more or less the same purpose–living a faster life.
When efficiency has become the ultimate goal when faster processing speeds and more search results within a shorter amount of time are emphasized more often than happiness, then it is a fast-paced lifestyle that we are promoting, and it is not necessarily a comfortable one. I, and many other youngsters of my generation, have been weaned on the idea of how desirable and valuable swiftness is far too often. And so I have grown up demanding efficiency, both from myself and from my surroundings, with little care of pausing and enjoying the moment. In order to keep up with the ever-more-demanding pace, I drum my fingers impatiently on the keyboard in wait for search results, switch to Snapchat instead of Facebook because it is faster to see a photo than to read a message in text, and read short summaries of books assigned by schools instead of words of the author. In more ways than I would like to admit, I have sped through so much without much enjoyment. My life is a constant whirlwind of reminding myself to speed up, do it fast, and even faster, for no one, not even myself, and have the patience to wait.
Such a pursuit is dangerous–non-enjoyable purposes often lead to dead ends, for one would start pondering: Why did I start this journey, anyway? Why exactly am I doing what I am doing? When no plausible answer other than since I cannot afford to fall behind can be found, one would either lose all motivation to do anything at all, or continue doing everything repeatedly and robotically without passion, vigor, or ego.
There are ways to prevent this lifestyle from spreading – take some time to think, to reflect, and to enjoy before telling yourself to speed up; stop searching for more time-efficient options to do your cooking, your reading…whatever it is, and experience the pleasure of taking your time. Pause every once in a while. Breathe. And keep in mind that there is more to life than outracing everyone and yourself–enjoying the race should be your ultimate goal, not the number of minutes and seconds you took to cross the finish line.