Great(er) Expectations—The Effects of Digital on Patience

Scene from Parks and Recreation, tossing a computer.
What is your reaction when websites take forever to load?

An article by Nicholas Carr titled The Patience Deficit discusses the human perception of time.  Specifically, the article alludes to research around page load times and video load times—in short, as we get faster Internet connections, we grow less tolerant of slower web page and video loads.  Here’s the relevant clip from the study:

Back in 2006, a famous study of online retailing found that a large percentage of online shoppers would abandon a retailing site if its pages took four seconds or longer to load. In the years since then, the so-called Four Second Rule has been repealed and replaced by the Quarter of a Second Rule. Studies by companies like Google and Microsoft now find it takes a delay of just 250 milliseconds in page-loading for people to start abandoning a site. “Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web,” a top Microsoft engineer said in 2012. To put that into perspective, it takes about the same amount of time for you to blink an eye.

Carr goes on to reference separate 2012 research around online video viewing that suggests a causal link between faster Internet connections and less patience for “startup delay.”  Here’s a clipped graph from the research (PDF):


The takeaway from the above seems to be that when it comes to our expectations around digital media load times, they are connection-dependent. Raise your hand if you’ve gotten stupidly upset when your home internet goes down?  And while our tolerance for (slower) mobile Internet connection speeds may be greater, we are still only willing to tolerate so much.

I wonder about how this human behavioral component affects other interactions.  Here’s one that should hit home: who hasn’t groaned when a friend or family member has left you a voicemail in lieu of sending you a text message?

Not scientific but this about sums up my personal feelings toward checking voicemail.

While text-based communications have all sorts of shortcomings, their advantage is the easy of transmittal.  A glance and you can read a text message.  It also takes more effort to draft a text due to the interface (typing); this makes the sender more likely to stay on point.

The effect of digital on our expectations is profound yet poorly understood.

Your thoughts?

H/T to NTO.

* Clipped from a book titled What Should We Be Worried About? 

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