29 Jan A very modern problem
How the foundation of our society is bringing us down
There’s a reason people often turn around in the middle of their lives and start to question everything… How did I get here? Where am I going? Why?
And no, it’s not because they’ve woken up drunk in a stranger’s bed. They wish!
I’m talking about a very modern problem: the midlife crisis. It’s a term that was only coined in the 1960s. A recent phenomenon, the causes of which are recent, too.
The rise of the midlife crisis is partly due to the development of technology. We simply have less to worry about. Somehow I imagine the rate of midlife crises is far lower in LEDCs, for instance. When life is a struggle, you don’t have the luxury of existential dilemma. It’s a First World problem.
But when examined more closely, a more complex reason emerges for the midlife crisis. One of the great privileges of the modern world has become a cause of the problem.
Choice. It’s what our society is built upon. Democracy. The right to vote. Freedom to choose. People have died for it.
And now we’re floundering in it. A sea of choice. Who knew there were so many ways to make coffee? What furniture really defines me as a person? Which car should I buy? And then… Can I get a better deal somewhere else?
Everyone seems to have an opinion. A whole industry has developed to help people choose – we now have comparison websites and magazines. Moustachioed men have us diving for the remote. Not again!
Which brings us to TV. How shall I spend my precious evening, with dragons or drug dealers? (You haven’t seen Breaking Bad yet!?)
I could go on. As you might expect by now, there are lots of examples to choose from. But what has all this got to do with the midlife crisis?
Well, it’s our natural reaction to so much choice. We develop habits. Routines. Do the thinking once, and then stick with that decision. Get into a groove. Get stuck in a rut.
We make so many choices in life that we become unconscious of them. Just another zombie, glued to a phone. It’s easy to turn around one day and wonder how you got there, where you’re going, and why.
We’ve all heard of the billionaires who only ever wear one outfit to reduce the amount of choice in their lives. But where’s the fun in that? I like dressing up!
I want to choose. It’s a privilege, after all. I just want the businesses, websites, and services I use to make my choices easier. And not by limiting the options, but by showcasing all of the wonderful things on offer.
Because the thinking behind Steve Jobs’ black polo neck and jeans is sensible, even if the fashion isn’t: make the small choices easier, and you’ll have more time to spend on the important things.