Modern Media and the Paradox of Choice

Have you ever heard of the concept of ‘the paradox of choice’?  This is the idea that choice is not always a freeing experience but quite the reverse. That an abundance of choices can lead to unhappiness, anxiety, depression and loneliness.

It seems kind of counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t choice be a liberating thing? But it makes sense when you think about it. For example, if I have one restaurant to eat at then I will be happy with said restaurant. When I have 15 restaurants then what was once pleasurable for me at the lone restaurant may be gross in comparison. Plus, now I have the anxiety and frustration of picking out a restaurant when before I went and made it work.

I was thinking about this particularly in terms of media. Never in history of time has there been so many options for entertainment. It is quite overwhelming.

I couldn’t find the exact number but I believe around 700 films are currently released each year. That is triple what we had in the 80s and 90s.

Just think about animated films alone:

By my counts we had 35 animated films both indie and main studio released in 2016. In contrast, 1984 had 0 animated releases. Can you imagine that? A whole year without an animated film? Now we get 2 or 3 a month.

Because of the scarcity of options we would see a very flawed movie like Oliver and Company and have a good time with it. It felt more special because it kind of was. I think you could say the same thing for a movie like Space Jam. It’s not a very good movie but it was an animated comedy and we didn’t get many of those.

Compare the experience of Oliver and Company with the recent release of Smurfs: the Lost Village. I liked the film but it did not do well at the box office. Critics were pretty harsh on it and audiences weren’t drawn to it. Imagine if that was the only animated film of the year? People would have went to it and enjoyed it.

But on the other hand, a plethora of options can be a great thing. To use 2016 as an example we got so much great animation. I had 9 animated films in my top 25 of the year and they all deserved their spot. In one year I was treated to Zootopia, Moana, Your Name, The Red Turtle, Kubo and the Two Strings and more.

On the other hand, I can’t help but compare my experience as a little girl watching Little Mermaid and obsessing about it for 3 years hard core. Kids don’t do that as much now because the next movie has come in the next month and they’ve moved on. It seems like movies like Zootopia and Moana aren’t as special as they would have been in the 90s. Not because they aren’t great films, because they are, but because we simply have so many other options.

It is even worse with TV where the options are endless. Literally every day I hear about a new show I have to see. At least with movies I can pump it out in 2 hours where a TV show requires so much investment. A side of me misses the day when there were 10 channels and you found something to entertain you on that channel.  Now we have the networks, premium channels, streaming and even online providers and youtubers.

I end up having to narrow my focus and watch animation and period pieces as top priority. Then I have innocuous comedies and food shows as my unwind. But I would love to watch Dr Who, Avatar, Legend of Kora, Steven Universe, and a million other shows. I’ve been wanting to watch the original Star Trek for forever but I’ve only seen a few episodes (which were brilliant). Even for someone like me with a flexible schedule there just isn’t enough hours in the day!

Dr Barry Schwartz says about the paradox of choice:

“Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”

He then talks about how having a choice can make our eventual decision less satisfying:

“Schwartz finds that when people are faced with having to choose one option out of many desirable choices, they will begin to consider hypothetical trade-offs. Their options are evaluated in terms of missed opportunities instead of the opportunity’s potential….afterwards, it affects the level of satisfaction we experience from our decision.”

I feel like this is true with so many aspects of modern life. Even many deciding their major can be super overwhelming when back in my grandma’s day you just picked bachelor of arts or science and went on your merry way. Maybe there is something to that?

What do you think? Do we almost have too many choices these days and do you find it overwhelming? How do you decide what shows to watch and movies to see? Have you felt this paradox of choice with media or other part of your life? I would love to discuss it!

Today I Bought Dandelion Crayons

Last week if you had asked me what a dandelion crayon was I might have looked at you like you were nuts. Yet today I bought two 24 packs of Crayola crayons for dandelion crayons. Why this sudden attachment? Well, Crayola announced a few days ago they are discontinuing the dandelion crayon. This actually makes a lot of sense for them since they already have yellow, apricot, white and red orange, which would all work for coloring dandelions. I mean how often do you really need a mustard yellow crayon? So, why did this news make me a little sad and send me out to buy crayon boxes? I’m honestly not exactly sure.

I think part of it is a resistance to change. Sometimes it feels like everything is changing all around me. Of course, we have important stuff happening in politics but then stupid stuff like Batman killing in movies and Superman getting murdered. Why does everything have to change? I just saw Beauty and the Beast remade and changed and a million other remakes are coming. Now they are taking away the dandelion crayon.

I suppose there was a side of me that wanted to hold on to something that is still the way it was when I was little. The 24 pack had dandelion crayons when I was drawing as a little girl and now it wouldn’t. When I was 8 or 9 there was a special photograph you could have taken by these big giant crayons. I wanted my picture by them so badly! There I am smiling and happy and what am I next to? Why it’s a dandelion crayon.

In a few weeks that will be gone. I’m getting more towards 40 every day but I suppose sometimes I miss that smiling girl who didn’t have to worry about all these hard things. I just wanted to get my photo taken by a dandelion crayon.

So yes today I bought dandelion crayons and some coloring books. I plan on coloring to my little hearts content and using as much dandelion as I can.

Winners 3/26/2017

Each week I try to celebrate things I believe are winners. This is an effort to be positive and focus on the many good things out there to enjoy!

This week’s winners are:

  1. Utah Bands- For this week’s Friday 5 over on my youtube channel the topic was bands from you hometown so I picked 5 bands/groups from Utah! This proved to be really fun
  2. Murder on the Orient Express- I finished reading the classic mystery novel by Agatha Christie this week and I thoroughly enjoyed it. She does such a good job building characters and giving clues. I really like Poirot almost as much as Sherlock Holmes. Reading the book made me excited for the upcoming movie directed by Kenneth Branaugh.
  3. Power Rangers and Smurfs: Lost Village come through- I am always a fan of underdogs and this week I got 2 surprisingly decent films. I enjoyed both The Power Rangers Movie and Smurfs: the Lost Village. Neither is perfect but I was entertained by both.  Check out my blog and youtube channel for reviews of both. What are your winners? What books, music, movies or anything else have you been enjoying?

15 Years since BYU

It seems hard for me to believe but the next few weeks marks a milestone in my life. It will be 15 years since I graduated with my bachelors degree from Brigham Young University (BYU)! It really seems impossible that 15 years has come and gone.

One of the things I envy about those who have kids is they have more concrete evidence of their growth as people. This person didn’t exist and now they do. I have no such evidence. In many ways I feel the same as I did back in 2002 getting my degree. For all intensive purposes how different is my life? I work every day, go to church on Sunday and develop my hobbies just like I did back then.

Nevertheless, I will always look back at my time at BYU as the happiest time of my life. It was a time of great growth, soul searching and closeness to God that I will never forget. My mission was also an extreme learning experience but that was more polishing. The real grunt work happened at BYU.

After growing up with little church support it was so important to be surrounded by people with shared values. I remember when we said a prayer before my science class and I started to cry. Where else could you say a prayer before a science class? What a liberating and beautiful thing!

Most people probably have grand ideas of what they want to do coming out of college. Not me. I just wanted to finish and have a great life. I’ve never been much of a dreamer in that way. I remember my friend Raelene had this long list of the house she wanted and the other bucket list things she wanted to do in life. That was never me. I was just thrilled to have achieved my dream of going to BYU. I didn’t need anything more.

Since then I have served a mission and had a number of jobs including working as an accounting clerk for nearly 10 years. Now I work from home in marketing and I think that might surprise my former self as I was a very social person back then. Now that social life is mostly fulfilled by means like twitter and facebook. It’s hard to imagine I once didn’t have those tools and survived quite well. I believe 2002 was the first year I ever got a cell phone if that puts things in perspective.

If I could give my young self advice I’d say to be patient and that being single aint that bad. I’d say quit that horrible job in 2005 instead of hanging on until 2007 and being miserable. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make sure you are making memories instead of gliding through life. And I’d say ‘you just lost Grandpa and yep you still miss him all these years later’.

It’s funny because I really don’t use my degree much aside from basic writing, editing and reading skills. However, I am certainly grateful I had my college experience and can look back with nostalgia at such a happy time in my life. I am grateful for all I learned and the person it helped me to become.

I can’t believe it has been 15 years! How is that possible?

Well, all I have o say is GO COUGARS!!

Faerie Tale Theater

Hey guys! Happy Sunday! I just wanted to share with you all a review I just posted for my Family Movie Night Series. In this case it is not technically a movie that I am talking about. Today I look at a television show from my youth called Faerie Tale Theater. It ran during the 80s and has a bunch of famous people all reenacting different famous fairy tales like Rapunzel, Cinderella, Little Mermaid and more. The production behind these mini-films are hokey and cheap by today’s standards but there is a lot of enthusiasm and loved put in that make a difference. I love how true to the original stories they are with darker themes and endings explored. I also love that the actors seem to be having the time of their lives.

It seems like a lot of my friends in Utah watched the show, so I’m not sure if it aired more here than other places but it was a lot of fun. It kind of feels like Once Upon a Time does now. That has a continuing story-line but it celebrates fairy tales in kind of a hokey way. Some people will be distracted by the cheesy production design but if you can get behind that then there really is something there to enjoy.

What made me think about it is there seems to be this insatiable appetite for these live action Disney remakes with Beauty and the Beast being the latest. I have been mixed on these remakes but many others have loved all of them. I think just like I liked seeing the live action fairy tales told in Faerie Tale Theater, kids today like seeing these live action movies. They fill that faerie tale loving niche!

So did you watch Faerie Tale Theater? What did you think of it? You can purchase the dvds on amazon or watch many on youtube.  Let me know what you think!