Paradox of Choice

, , Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'm  getting  sick of the internet. But I'm in it too deep to get out now. Everybody is aware of the common dangers of the net; dangers like pornography, phishing, viruses, stalking, etc.. I'm not really too concerned with any of these dangers for myself, but there is a more subtle and seductive danger in it for me - the danger of too much information. While not a physical threat, too much information threatens to make me tentative and indecisive. Having the world at your fingertips creates a paradoxical feeling that you never have all the information you're looking for. There's got to be one more piece of crucial information if you just do the right search.

I spend a lot of time on looking up climbs. Since I'm planning a trip to Colorado this summer I concentrate a lot on climbs I might do out there. If you click on that last link, you'll see that there's a lot to choose from. Along with each route description there are lots of pictures to help you get your bearings. And along with the pictures are thousands of comments which are sometimes incongruous. So then I head over to to see what printed guidebooks I can take along, and I page through the list of choices and find one that looks intriguing but I've never heard about. So I do a quick Google search to see what others think about it. I don't find any reviews, but I do find a copy of the book at a substantial discount. Going back to Amazon, I also find a discounted copy of the book I was originally interested in via an used book dealer. It's an older copy of a book that has now been picked up by Falcon Guides; I wonder if the new version has newer information about access, camping and related activities that I should pay more for? I also find another book that I thow into my "cart" for good measure in case the others don't have what I need. Then I second guess my choice of the last book, but it's too late because the order is being processed and the item cannot be canceled. 

I'm a victim of The Paradox of Choice, but it goes beyond buying decisions. The internet makes be feel like I have to be an expert on every topic. Before I can make a decision I have to educate myself with the available information. And in case you haven't noticed, the database of available information is huge. 

We were planning a kayaking trip to the Apostle Islands this weekend, and the constant stream of internet weather forecasting either ruined what would have been a nice weekend or saved what would be a miserable weekend - either way the plan was scrapped because we were forced to make a decision based on the available (too much?) information. Twenty years ago we wouldn't have been seeking hourly weather updates 5 days prior to our departure.

But that's the world we live in today.


  1. anne said...

    That's why I'm glad the eye doctor we go to only had like 10 choices for glasses frames for Steve. We could have been there all day! Anne

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