By Dan Pool
When I was a kid growing up here in the 1970s-80s, you only had a couple of grocery stores that provided all the staples. You didn’t see displays of seafood, nor dozens of expensive cheeses and, at that time, we would have taken the packaged sushi home and cooked it. You certainly couldn’t find gluten-free pretzel baking flour or hummus on local shelves. Heck, no one even knew what gluten was, but I am pretty sure we all felt better and trifled less about food allergies.
At that time homegrown tomatoes with mayonnaise, white bread and a lot of salt was a health food. And a Mexican restaurant was considered exotic fare.
You had a couple of network channels on television along with the Turner channel that showed Braves games and wrestling. Cartoons were relegated to the outside margins, almost as a concession, “give a little something for the kids on Saturday mornings” as adults don’t want to watch television then.
Now it’s dozens of channels on our cable provider and an unlimited buffet of every genre, sport, old shows, new shows, and some stuff that no one should see online. It used to be you made sure you were in front of the television at a certain time to catch Seinfeld or The Six Million Dollar Man. Now there is “binge watching” (watching all of a series at one sitting which is possible online). I am told I should watch the Netflix series Daredevil, and I am sure I would like it. But I am afraid to start it as I have other stuff to do this summer. Who has the time?
The same goes for books. Not too many years ago, finding a particular book could be a challenge. Pre-internet you needed word of mouth or a book review to tip you off to a good read, but with no Amazon, the tome might never be found. Now there is the opposite problem, you get recommendations everyday and they are ALL available instantly. Rather than looking for books, you must have limits or wind up a literary dog circling your tail with 10 new recommendations every week.
The same goes for music, just change Amazon to Spotify. That Styx album you haven’t heard since high school? Listen to the whole thing right now.
To borrow from comedian Louis C.K., we used to have “the phone.” One line per house, all you did was talk. “Hey get the phone.” Now it’s “my phone” or “my cell.” And you use it all the time, but rarely talk.
We have reached a point that we have too much of everything: too many choices, too many options. Try to buy something online and you end with 495 different models and reviews and tips on each one to sort through.
A sizeable percentage of Americans say they feel rushed or stressed. But the same basic structure of life hasn’t changed: Workdays are actually shorter than the early 1900s; family requirements are the same - you still get the kids to school and do the yard work and shopping as before.
What has changed are all these extra options, choices. Who has time to enjoy their afternoon when they want to try that unusual recipe, finish the last episodes of House of Cards, check Facebook, start a book and watch online highlights from eight different football games.
There was a tipping point we passed somewhere in the last couple of years between opening the door to new options and flooding ourselves with so many options that we don’t have time for anything. It’s like a kid in a candy store, you can’t choose any one thing because you are so worried about the two dozen you are going to miss.
With too much of everything, you end up with a little bit of a bunch of stuff, and nothing at all complete.