The Tyranny of Choice

I love doing word puzzles, so when the New York Times started featuring more puzzles each day to help us fill all of our free time, I was thrilled. One of my favorites is the cryptogram. Last week, the solved cryptogram read, “When I was growing up, we had three television channels, and it was already too much to watch.” (I may have paraphrased it, but that’s the gist.)

Seven years ago, I wrote about why I preferred Netflix DVDs over Netflix Streaming. You can read it here at Too Many Choices. While I still like getting DVDs from Netflix, the pandemic has necessitated that my family do more streaming than ever before. Not just streaming from Netflix, but from other sources as well.

A couple of weeks ago, we added Disney Plus to our streaming options so that we could watch the filmed version of the Broadway show “Hamilton”. We had seen the show twice on Broadway and have practically memorized the cast album, but as theater people, we were not going to miss the opportunity to see it again when it debuted on Disney Plus on July 3.

We don’t plan on keeping Disney Plus forever, so we went through the other programs and movies available on the channel to make a list of what else we wanted to watch while we had it. Of course all of our old Disney favorites were there, but also several that none of us have seen, so we added all of those unwatched titles to our list.

Last week we watched “Frozen 2”. While we had seen and loved “Frozen”, I was not originally enthusiastic about seeing the sequel because (1) sequels rarely live up to the original, and (2) it was not well reviewed. But there it was on Disney Plus for no charge other than what we already paid for the month, so we watched it.

At the end, I polled my family, and we all agreed that we could absolutely have lived without it. Now I’m rethinking some of those other movies we added to our list. Perhaps we can live without those, too.

Even before the pandemic, we lived in an era of endless content. Now, viewing experiences that only used to be available in person are available electronically. I call this plethora of content “the tyranny of choice”. We want to have options, but having too many options is often just as bad as — or worse than — not enough options.

As a Professional Organizer, I have long promulgated the theory that “Less is More”. I have usually applied this to the matter of stuff, but I believe that it applies equally to the matter of content. Time is finite, and sometimes it’s a better use of your time to just say no, even if there is still more to watch.


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