Q

Shad: Can we savour our selections when there's so much choice?

Shad winds down the week with a reflection on the paradox of choice. Have we cultivated the illusion that if we choose wisely, we can have it all?

We talk a lot about the digital age on this show. I talk a lot about it off air too. Frankly I'm sort of sick of talking about it — but I can't help myself.

Earlier this week, filmmaker Shosh Shlam was here talking about military style internet rehab camps for Chinese kids. These kids are so into gaming they wear diapers to avoid bathroom breaks and basically drop out from society. 

Then writer Patricia Marx was on the show talking about our abundance of digital distractions and how information overload might cause mental decline

Today Aziz Ansari spoke about the staggering number of choices in this modern age when it comes to dating.

These conversations question where all this entertainment, information, and choice really leaves us. 

For many choice is synonymous with freedom. And individual freedom is one of our society's highest values. 

But what does choice really mean when what you chose lands you in front of a drill Sergeant with no internet access? I realize China isn't exactly a free society. But we have examples here too.

As Aziz Ansari discovered in his research, more choice can lead to increased dissatisfaction, anxiety, and even a sort of psychological paralysis. And it can cultivate the illusion that if we choose wisely, we can have it all. 

And companies know this. It's how we're sold everything from Netflix subscriptions to cell phone packages to hotel upgrades.

But maybe all this apparent choice isn't as freeing as we think. 

Even if we have a million options before us, the laws of time and space prohibit us from truly having it all, because we can only ever be in one place at one time doing one thing. Is that much different from having no choice at all?

When you go to the drug store and choose from the rows and rows of deodorant, is there really a "best" option? What is the real difference between Ocean Breeze and Sea Mist? Is all this choice really about individual freedom, or is it just about money?

Maybe "choice" isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe real freedom is less about the possibility of choice and more about the possibility of peace.

The digital age has definitely given us more of the former but it's very possible that we've lost some of the latter.

— Shad

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now