The Ten Trends That Are Complicating Our Lives
A note from the author: I began writing "Why is Everyone So Cranky?" in 1997. The hardcover was released in October 1999 and the trade paperback came out in June, 2001.
Some of the concerns I covered in the book that are now even more of an issue include :
Alas, the following trends are still as relevant today, in 2008, as they were when I wrote the book, and some of them have even intensified! I'm beginning to note a few new trends, as well, but for now, these ten are quite enough!
Compressed Time - We are all suffering from the "terrible too's"-too much to do and too little time in which to do it. Now that we live in a fast moving 24/7 world, there's no down time for catching up. Although we can't possibly keep up, there's an expectation that we can, and even worse, that we should! So what's the problem? People become rude when they're feeling rushed and hurried. One woman said she "didn't have time to be polite" and I reminded her that it takes just as much time to say "thank you" as it does to say "#!* you!"
Communication Overload - Every day we are inundated with media: news, entertainment, sound bites, ads, trivial TV shows, talk radio, more ads, and other noise. Airports, post offices, restaurants and other public places blare music, multiple screens, posters, billboards, and other eye or ear catching devices. We normalize to this mental and visual "noise" to the point that silence and quiet and the rare act of "doing nothing" is impossible for us to enjoy. Just the combination of compressed time and communication overload is enough to send us over the edge, but they are just the beginning! Read on.
dis-Connectedness - Sprawling homes, busy schedules, and chronic busyness (there's our time and overload issues again) keep us too distracted, preoccupied, and self-absorbed to keep our relationships in shape. People spend precious time driving everywhere they go, kids are kept busy lest they get into trouble, parents spend hours in their home offices, and couples are too busy to talk, let alone enjoy intimacy. Enter the DINS syndrome (double income, no sex). As a result of these first three trends, rudeness is rampant at work, at home, and on the road. But don't stop: there's more!
Cost - Spiraling costs and low wages are limiting the options of the lower middle class. Companies are cutting back on their benefit packages and government entitlement programs continue to be slashed, leaving our poor disconnected and disenfranchised. Thanks to high prices, the availability of credit and credit cards, and the seductive power of ads, young couples and old can easily go into debt . Even those who are more circumspect with their money can barely manage to buy a starter home, let alone their dream house, and single parents are living close or within the poverty line. Then there's the cost of health care and insurance, too.
Competition - Global competition is connected to the cost issue and of course, this has affected all of us and the impact will intensify with time. You've witnessed the ongoing downsizing in most marketplaces and the corporate takeovers in other industries, the cutbacks in pay and benefits so companies can remain "competitive." And there's competition at an everyday level, too: more of us in the same place at the same time trying to get the same goods, services, space, or attention and somebody's going to have to wait, though none of us want to. More rudeness and impatience, more dis-connectedness, more crankiness.
Customer Contact - The promise of service keeps getting bigger and louder but the reality of the delivery doesn't always measure up. Overloaded and underpaid servers, clerks, and technicians suffer the abuse and unreasonable demands of cranky customers while innocent customers must endure the indifference and incompetence of poorly trained personnel. If only we could stage a match up between bad customers and equally bad service people and separate out the good ones, things would be pretty nice for those of us who still know how to be civil.
Computers - Technology has changed our lives. The computer has revolutionized how we live and look at the world. Technology has both given us increased convenience and complexity at the same time but some of us don't know where to draw the line. There are many people who need to sign up for a twelve step cell phone addiction support group (call 1-888...just kidding!) and others who trade quality time with their family for time with their PC. Indeed, technology has made life so convenient we have lost our tolerance for inconvenience. When the computer is down, or you run into technological glitches, remind yourself that you're the higher life form and you can control your emotions. Crankiness is a choice.
Change - It's constant, ever present, ongoing. Some of the changes are good, some of them are not. Your getting upset will not stave off the undesired changes. Accept, adapt, or avoid, depending. I wish there were more I could say about this topic, other than don't waste your precious time grousing about changes you cannot do anything about. Get over it, get on with it instead. There's a life out there waiting to be lived in spite of it all: yours!
Coming of Age - Here's the good news: old is younger than it used to be and here's the bad news: young is older than it used to be. We're living longer, staying healthier (much of this is by choice) and more vital in our older years than we once were. But youngsters are exposed to, and having to deal with issues that we mature adults could not have even fathomed at their age. Be patient, make good choices, significantly connect with someone who younger or older than you.
Complexity - War. Economics. Politics. 9/11. Global instability. Conflicts over scientific research. Global Warming. The paradox of non-renewable resource shortages and our dependence on fossil fuels. The issues that affect our daily lives are exceedingly complex yet they are too often increasingly packaged into sound bites and impossibly simplified concepts. Who is willing to take the time and sort through the overload so the average citizen can get a grasp of what's going on? Hey, some of us can barely decide which products (toothpaste, shampoo, cleaning compounds) are best for our families, let alone how to understand the consequential issues we are facing today! Complex issues cannot be addressed with simple solutions. Don't take what you get at face value. Do your research.
Summary - These are the challenges outlined in the book. But for every problem or issue raised in the chapters and cranky quizzes, you are given suggestions and strategies for dealing with them. Browse this web site and you'll get a flavor of the light way this heavy subject is treated, and the concrete ways you can minimize the stress and chaos these trends create.