The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Unlimited Choice is a Good Thing, right?

Waking up in an anxious sweat this morning, my heart thumping around 100 beats per minute, I realised I was fretting about a lens for my camera I’m planning on buying.

It’s not a cheap lens, and I may well have to mortgage one of the children to acquire it, but it should fulfil a function more efficiently and to a higher standard than one I’m currently using.

So of course there is pressure – mostly self-inflicted – about whether I can justify the outlay. But even once I’ve decided buy it, further choices make themselves felt.

To begin with, there’s another lens in a similar price bracket, which has greater functionality in one area, but lacks in another – which would be the better one to go for? What if I choose the wrong one?

And then, where am I going to buy it from? This site sells it for less than that one, but I’ve never heard of them so cannot be sure they are reliable.

And so it goes on – one choice after another, each one inducing further anxiety about taking the wrong option for one reason or another.

In a rather timely manner, I was scrolling through Facebook and found everyone’s favourite Kitchen Bitch, Eryl, had posted a link to a fascinating 10-minute video about how unlimited choice paralyses us.

Far from making us the masters of our own destiny, it is in fact a superb way to control the masses and keep them from trying to enact social change, while making them believe they are in charge.

Another aspect Eryl drew my attention to, that had never crossed my mind before, is how Choice always involves Loss, and this too is a huge contributor to the anxiety it can create.

If you can spare 10 minutes of your life, I guarantee you will find this interesting, educational or enlightening.



If the above video is not visible, then follow this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bqMY82xzWo

15 comments

Capt. Schmoe said...

This is easy. Mortgage TWO kids, buy both lenses. As one of my photo instructors once said "just buy it".

Personally, I prefer to deal with sites that I have used and i trust. For me, it's B&H in NY, others I know use Adorama. I am sure that you have similar places in your part of the world that balance price and customer service. Good luck and remember - just buy it.

Anna van Schurman said...

My dad used to give me gift certificates to a jewelry store for Christmas. I had an anxiety attack trying to choose something. Giant store, too many choices. Finally my sister took me to their smaller store and held my hand. Now he just buys me something himself. :) I feel you, dude. (I wasn't even spending my own money!)

Sandy's witterings said...

An interesting video. Maybe it's true maybe it's not. Maybe there's a line of thought where people always want to feel that they've got it worse than anyone else - "oh the communists really had it better than us" or "we'd be better of as serfs" - perhaps they did? Indeed choice does carry problems but also eliminates different problems, it depends on where you think the balance lies as to whether you think it good or bad.

I'm glad the writer chose a less squeaky pen very shortly after the video began.

Falak said...

It's the same old story of being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Personally, I hate being served with too many options to choose from. Options plague us in all walks of life... From choosing a career to deciding which channel to watch on TV. If things were just kept simple by segregating them into good and bad.... No in-betweens...

hope said...

It definitely was easier being a kid when the choices were, "Take it or leave it." :)

I stick to the theory of "first, do no harm" (for social choices) and for personal ones I do tend to put others ahead of me. But in the case of camera lenses, this is something very important to you. It's okay to occasionally pick the expensive choice when it's actually what you need to get the job done right. And if you need to justify it to the part of you which worries: it's not like you buy one of these EVERY week. :)

Go with your gut...but keep the kids.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Another blogger, Cadiz, has recently written about the same dilemma...too many choices.

Haha, which one of the children will you mortgage?

Eryl said...

Rather delightfully, I feel I made the right choice posting the film on my page.

One of the things I found most interesting about prof Saleci's theory is her argument that too much choice can paralyse, probably because I've experienced that feeling. Knowing about this, though, having had someone put into words what has only been a vague feeling is empowering. I feel like less of an idiot already.

Carole said...

I haven't listened to the video yet, and I will, but for so long I felt I had no choice, but to blandly follow what people told me to believe, do, enjoy, etc. Now I try to actually make choices instead of just doing because it is the easiet thing.

Oh and perhaps instead of mortgaging the kids you could get Maggie and Rogan to turn over their recipes and just make a cookbook and sell it.

allencapoferri said...

I watched about the first five, maybe six minutes of the professor's video. And although I feel it's something worth analysis I disagree with the professors analysis. It does become something internal we need to solve not external. The choice doesn't cause anxiety it exacerbates anxiety that's already there.

Sausage Fingers said...

As I age I try to consider my own feelings and choices rather than the others around me. It has taken 43 years of my life to finally be able to do what I want, say what I want and not feel remorse or guilt about it. It is a work in progress.
I am what I am...
Cheers, Sausage Fingers.

C in DC said...

Parenting "experts" here in the U.S. advocate offering children choices whenever possible, because by doing so, you as the parent gain control of the situation. It's exactly this: "Far from making us the masters of our own destiny, it is in fact a superb way to control the masses and keep them from trying to enact social change, while making them believe they are in charge."

El-Branden Brazil said...

Secondhand lenses are an option too. I have several lenses, two of which are secondhand, that have been reliable and sturdy for many years. In fact, one of them is twenty years old, and while not the fastest auto-focus, it remains having a good reputation among photographers, as an excellent lens model. New does not always mean better. Some photographers hunt down older lenses out of preference.

Pat said...

That makes sense to me. How clearly she speaks. I trust that wasn't her arm.

Theanne and Baron said...

Buy the lens you want that will do the job...you're a professional photographer and it's part of the equipment you need to do your job!

If you really want it you'll figure out a way to pay for it!

Kim Ayres said...

Capt. Schmoe - was your phot instructor also a salesman? ;)

Anna VS - I think it's worse when you're spending someone else's money, as you've then not just got to please yourself, you have to get something they would approve of, which means a great deal of second guessing and greater anxiety for for fear getting it wrong

Sandy - I think some choice is good - usually better than no choice - but more and more choice doesn't necessarily equate with more and more freedom.

Falak - when we are young we are told the world is black and white - good and bad, neatly categorised. But as we get older we realise there is no black or white, it is all just many shades of grey...

Hope - even once I'd decided I was going to get the lens, the anxiety came on about where to buy it. Obviously I don't want to pay more for it than necessary, but some of the cheaper places might not be so reliable, or might be grey imports that aren't covered by the guarantee. The point being that sometimes it feels there are far too many options at every stage

Guyana-Gyal - ok, you called my bluff - I could never choose between my children... I'll have to mortgage them both :)

Eryl - I think it was in the book "Generation X" that I first came across the term 'option paralysis' and it struck a chord then. Thanks for posting the video :)

Carole - I like that cookbook idea, and I could take some good photos for it too :)

Allen - but in order to resolve the internal we need to first become aware how it is fed into us externally. We are most easily manipulated when we are unaware of being manipulated :)

Sausage Fingers - if you've always been one of life's 'people pleasers', then learning how to start putting yourself first is a huge thing

C in DC - now you mention it, you're right - we've been doing this with the kids for years - make them feel they have a choice and they feel in charge, even though we have dictated the terms of that choice from the start

Branden - very true, and well worth keeping in mind :)

Pat - There are a whole load of RSA Animated talks, and I find them all fascinating. But I think it's the same guy who draws all of them :)

Theanne - I am getting the lens - in fact I ordered it this morning - the thing that interested me from a blogging point of view was how choice can be anxiety inducing rather than giving us a sense of freedom :)

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