Drowning in a Flood of Choices

I’m ready to dial back the choices in my life.

Last night I found myself 20-minutes deep down a rabbit hole of a streaming service for the television. And the longer I scrolled, the more overwhelmed and disinterested I became. Finally, in frustration, I clicked off the television and tossed the remote onto the coffee table.

How did life, with all the time-saving choices before us, become so overwhelming?

My television is home to several paid-for streaming services, each promising to make my life richer, easier, and more rewarding. And my truck, music streams from a satellite service with more flavors of curated music, news, and sports than I can find time to explore. And my phone, now filled with little-used apps, is similarly bloated beyond everyday use.

I need a break from the world’s generous offer to help simplify my life.

Technology is a funny thing – original promises regularly being amped up to a level most of us eventually decide is beyond useful or helpful. Unfortunately, we – as consumers – end up drowning in the success of helpful intentions. I know I am.

I am reading a book chronicling the settling of western Texas. Pages describe small mail-order houses built on rugged grounds struggling to simply grow vegetation let alone support a family of six and their livestock. And from what I read, they got along fine without thousands of commercial distractions in front of them. Honestly, I envy them.

Somehow we have become geared to believe more is better. More movies, more music, more choices of tomatoes in the grocery store. At one point, however, when are the number of choices creating the opposite effect – stunting our curiosity and appreciation for variety?

I consider myself an average person of average intelligence. And in addition to that, one with a lower than normal attention span. Focusing deeply and for extended periods, unfortunately, could be a skill being groomed out of us by an onslaught of the never-ending noise of choices.

Recently I’ve begun turning down the noise. At home we have cut the cable cord, eliminating hundreds of little-if-ever watched channels, now relying on streaming from three subscription services. I now subscribe to only three newspapers (The Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Times), and reintroduced a handful of favorite CDs into my truck. I’ve even worked to remove social media from my mind and attention, only rarely checking it to keep up on a few friends and family members. I don’t miss the noise one bit.

I guess in a way, this is akin to being a pioneer in the twenty-first century, turning away from the invasion of choices in my life. I appreciate a good apple, but I don’t need ten choices in the grocery store. I appreciate a good movie, but I don’t need 100,000 choices from a dozen streaming services. What I need is the time I control. And as of late, I got to tell you, this is a battle worth fighting.

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