In an age of sensationalist headlines and instant news, you begin to recognise the signs of a life-changing breaking story.
The ping of the phone. The collective gasp. The instantly trending hashtags.
And so it was last Friday, when Transport for London announced that they would be banning popular private taxi company Uber in the nation’s capital.
Like Brexit, Trump and Bake Off, the shocking news dominated conversation, both on and offline. Whose newsfeed wasn’t full of Uber-related hysteria this weekend? And as for trying to socialise without conversation swerving back onto the subject? Well that was practically impossible.
And sure enough, the emotionally driven opinions began rising up from both sides of the Uber debate.
For many, this is welcome news, what with Uber’s dodgy track record, safety concerns and the difficulties faced by London’s Black Cab drivers in recent years, due to crippling competition.
On the other hand, the decision has been criticised for ignoring popular opinion, standing in the way of progress and causing potential difficulties for upward of 25,000 Uber drivers, due to
losing their jobs entirely.
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, the discussion is gripping, emotive and culturally fascinating.
What is arguably more fascinating is the speed with which Uber has seemingly become such an integral part of many people’s lives. In the five years since the private hire company hit UK streets (literally), it has manoeuvred its way into everyday use (again literally) with such ease that the app now seems an irreplaceable necessity.
This speed is ultimately not surprising. After all, Uber by its very nature is about instant gratification. As are, let’s be honest, most apps which top the best-seller lists. Whether it’s streaming services, dinner reservations or home deliveries, any app worth its salt promises reliable, competitive immediacy.
And this immediacy isn’t just about apps and services. With 24 hour news and social media, we now live in a culture of instant consumption and instant gratification. Situations which require patience are an increasing rarity, and our lifestyles have necessarily followed suite.
We don’t expect to wait more than 30 seconds to read headlines from the other side of the world, so why should we wait more than five minutes for a taxi?
But just as news can break in the blink of an eye, so too can it change. No sooner had the dust settled from last week’s breaking news than we see a potential U-Turn in the headlines. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has already outlined in the Evening Standard that Uber will be given the green light as long as they change their policies to play by the rules (which, ultimately, is a fair enough request, and pretty likely to happen)
The speed with which news can change unmistakably echoes the speed with which apps like Uber become so ingrained in our lives. And the speed with which they can be taken away, too.
It’s probably time we got used to this culture of instantaneous news and immediate change. It doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. And if it does, it’ll most likely be back in the time it takes for a breaking headline to pop up on our phones.