Society needs to take a breather


Patience is a virtue. It’s a simple refrain I learned well in Mrs. Campbell’s class — rather than read the instructions on a pop quiz, I rushed to start answering the questions. Turns out I missed three bonus points for simply writing my name on the back of the page rather than the front. Speed, though, has become the dominant social, political and economic norm.

We need our food delivered in minutes — you can even pay to have your UberEats order prioritized over others. We need real-time updates on our social media feeds — news and nonsense from friends and foes alike, full of instantaneous “hot takes” rather than reasoned analysis. We demand our politicians deliver progress on our ideological aims now — candidates jockey to be viewed as the one most likely to succeed on short-term policy goals and partisan preferences. And, we expect and encourage companies to compete to be the “first mover” instead of the “steady and responsible actor.”


It’s time to slow things down. We need to resist our urge to act with haste. So here are a few suggestions for how we can exercise more patience — and, by doing so, save some lives, improve our politics and enhance our discourse.

First, let’s lower the speed limit just about everywhere and let’s enhance the use of automated ways to ticket those who prioritize their speed over the safety of others. It’s not rocket science that fewer bad things can happen when cars move slower — but don’t take my word for it.

Instead, consider that officials in Edmonton, Canada, saw a 50% drop in fatal and injurious crashes following a 6 mph drop in the speed limit. These benefits can come at relatively low cost, too. The European Union mandated the use of intelligent speed assistance systems in all new cars to increase driver awareness of excessive speeds and to ease enforcement. We can and should do the same in the United States.

Next, let’s consider granting our elected officials a single, longer term. Imagine if senators only served a single, eight-year term. Do you think they might reevaluate how they spend their time in office? I sure do.

Rather than waste a third or half of their day calling donors, they could spend more time talking with their colleagues about substantive reforms. And, in place of prioritizing bills they know will please their “base,” they can more thoroughly consider legislation that may not score political points but will nevertheless further the public interest.

Finally, let’s turn to social media. This may be the most obvious place where our addiction to speed has caused poor social outcomes. Speaking from unfortunate personal experience, I know that it can feel impossible to pull away from the drama and debates that endlessly populated my apps. And you may be able to relate to my temptation to post hot takes just to see how folks respond.

Those urges are understandable because that’s what the apps are built to do. We can and should advocate for more responsible platform design. The Prosocial Design Network, a community of behavioral science and design experts, has a menu of proven strategies that platforms can incorporate to make their respective feeds more aligned with quality deliberation – ideally platforms would voluntarily adopt these straightforward approaches for a better social media experience.

Realizing a slower society won’t be easy. The steps mentioned above, though, can help create space for safer streets, a more responsive democracy and a more deliberative social media ecosystem. Here’s to moving slowly and thinking about things.

Kevin Frazier is an assistant professor at the Crump College of Law at St. Thomas University. He previously clerked for the Montana Supreme Court.