Dr. Geri Harmon
Our lives are full of choices, from the moment our eyes open in the morning to when they close at night. We make choices every day. Some are considerably easy and we don’t even pay attention to them, while others are at times complicated.
Some of the choices we have to make in life are easier than others. One of the relatively easier ones is what clothes to wear every day. Selecting what to wear each day can be a horrific, time-consuming process for males and females alike. While some people may find this easy enough and they might just grab and put on the first thing to reach their hand, some people take time getting dressed making sure every little detail is in place. Did you know that women spend around one year of their lives deciding what to wear? I myself try on at least two outfits before I leave the house. Like Thomas Beller wrote in his essay “The Problem with T-Shirts”, he chose to wear a very old T-shirt that he had grown accustomed to, which got ruined during a party. Being very attached to the T-shirt he chose to keep it like it was, ripped, for another year or so until he finally decided to throw it out (54). I think we have all, at one time or another had that one piece of clothing that we just chose to keep instead of throwing out.
The problem is we have too many choices. Where at one time cars, telephones, and Oreos all came in one color selection, now we have, well, 45,000 choices. For example, once upon a time there was mayonnaise. You had to choose which brand you liked, but that was it. Now there’s regular, light, fat-free, canola, with lime juice, and with mustard (three kinds of mustard no less). It won’t be long before you can take home a jar of soy decaf shade grown fair trade dolphin-free mayonnaise. Then all you’ll need to do is decide whether you want a small jar, medium jar, large jar, or popcorn tub size. It makes ketchup sound better all the time. Then there are Oreos. There are now at least 17 types of Oreos, including peanut butter, mint, yellow cookie, fudge covered, double crème and the affirmative action role reversed version that has a white cookie and chocolate crème. Good luck finding a regular old Oreo.
All these choices make it difficult not only to decide what you want, but to actually make it home with the right thing. For reasons best known to the marketing department, manufacturers keep the labels the same and print the variant in small, unobtrusive letters using invisible ink. Right, like grocery shopping wasn’t enough fun before. Sometimes I get home and discover that I accidentally bought the wrong thing by mistake.
Restaurants are another place where we’re getting too many choices. Simply put, I don’t want to spend more time reading a menu than it will take me to eat my dinner. It’s a personal rule. I have enough trouble deciding what food ethnicity or style I want to eat, don’t make me go catatonic when the waitperson comes to the table for the fifth time to take my order.
Modern life has provided a huge array of products to choose from. Just walk into any large supermarket or drugstore looking for hair-care products and you’ll likely be confronted with more than 360 types of shampoo, conditioner and mousse. Need a pain killer? There are 80 options. How about toothpaste? You have 40 types to pick from. In addition, we now have to make choices in areas of life in which we used to have little or no option. We have to decide which telephone service providers and plans, internet service providers and retirement pension plans are the best for us.
A question Berry Schwartz rises in his essay “The Tyranny of Choice” is “Why are people increasingly unhappy even as they experience greater material abundance and freedom of choice?”(836). It seems a simple matter of logic that increased choice improves well-being. But the opposite may be true. Schwartz explains in his essay that while the gross domestic...