Why I don’t hate Facebook

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There are a helluva lot of people online writing about how much they hate Facebook. They hate it mainly because they feel it takes up too much of their time; because it can be a risk to personal privacy and because it can be a platform for halfwits of all varieties to publicly demonstrate their idiocy.

It can be all those things of course, but when I read these criticisms of Facebook, a part of my brain is bellowing: “LOOK AT ALL THOSE THINGS. THEY ARE UNDER YOUR CONTROL.”  You don’t have to put your place of work, your home address, your birthday, your mobile number or your bank details on there. You can click a thingy that allows you to review any tagged photos of you before they appear. If you don’t want to have embarrassing photos of yourself in compromising positions appear online, either click the thingy that gets them taken down or don’t allow yourself to get in compromising positions in the first place (at least in public). If your friends are posting moronic things, either unfriend them or hide their posts (why are you friends with morons?). If you don’t want some friends to see things you post, then select the thingy that customises who sees what. Make yourself unsearchable so that employers can’t find you if you’re worried that your Facebook self renders you unemployable. Frankly, I have no sympathy.

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And as for those who, like Janet Street Porter does here, claim that people have Facebook friends as a substitute for real life ones – believe it or not, humans have the phenomenal capacity to both type communications on a social networking platform AND speak real words to each other’s actual flesh faces. I know it seems difficult to believe, but it’s true. “These social networkers”, opines Ms. Street Porter knowledgeably, “may be technologically sophisticated, and yet what they actually communicate is anything but. They spend hours boasting about what they’ve eaten, what they’ve watched on telly and who they fancy. Why do they shirk from real-life encounters?” 

I can’t even begin to unpick the layers of shoddy argument here. It’s just a little ball of stupid. Does she believe that people’s face to face interactions are made up entirely of discussions on Shopenhauer’s investigation of individual motivation or debates about whether Newton or Leibniz was responsible for inventing calculus? Clearly she’s never been on the Redruth bus. And as for her comment on ‘real life’ encounters. Well. I can’t make it work as a deductive syllogism:

  • Some people who like social networking online might shirk from (sic) real life encounters.
  • Kevin is a person who likes social networking online.
  • Therefore Kevin shirks from real-life encounters.

Nope.

And if there are people who are troubled by ‘real life’ encounters, but are comfortable with online ones, in what way is this a bad thing? Surely this gives people some pleasure and a sense of being linked to others that they would otherwise not have? And in what way is Facebook not ‘real life’? Is it because we can select the images and words we project into the world? Can’t we do that in fleshspace also if we have more than a handful of braincells?

I don’t understand why it’s an either/or situation. I have more friends than I can handle in ‘real life’ AND an active Facebook life. Facebook enhances my real life. When I left my job a year or so ago, it was through Facebook that I was able to keep up with the colleagues I loved, almost as if we hadn’t been so rudely separated at all. We could banter online the way we bantered on a daily basis at work and I didn’t feel as bereft as I might have done otherwise. It was through Facebook that we casually arranged days out together and this way we kept up the bonds that I would have been heartbroken to have lost.

But alongside that, I do have friends on Facebook that I have never met, and probably will never meet. These are people who I have encountered in discussion groups or through my blog, etc, and have clicked with because of our shared humour and love of language. Social networking is all about the written word, and I adore the written word. The opportunities for communications of subtlety and hilarity are endless, and participants have time to ponder their answers before they blurt. This often leads to threads of discussion or banter that quite simply delight me.

I didn’t mean this to turn into quite the rant it has, but I have one example I’d like to share, before I shut up, of how Facebook can enhance ‘real life’ friendships. There is one person with whom I’m friends on Facebook that I have known in ‘real life’ since I was about 13. He was one of those very shy people who hang around with a social group, but are too self-conscious to talk much to girls, so remain in the background while the girls are about. Because of this, although I knew him, I didn’t really know him in the way the anti-Facebook people mean when they eulogise ‘real life’ relationships. After knowing him this way for about 25 years, this man and I became Facebook friends and it was a revelation. Because his shyness was sidestepped by communicating only in written language, my friend was able to reveal his actual self. Through a stream of interesting and entertaining discussion I discovered that he is incredibly well-read; a lover of poetry, theatre and literature; knowledgeable on a lot of topics; a member of interesting local history societies and above all, tremendously warm, funny and good with words. We developed a friendship that never could have happened in the much vaunted ‘real life’.

Anyway, what prompted this post was a combination of reading some anti-Facebook stuff, and then logging into Facebook and finding this thread (I’ve edited it as a nod to personal privacy & coherence) that took place in response to my last blog post. It reminded me what I love about Facebook:

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Hayley: Perfect words, Teen machine x

 Tony: Your writing is special. Having two small children myself, I am developing into a full blown plasma globe of anxiety about whether I’m favouring one or the other, whether my actions have inadvertently retarded the development of either, and whether they’ll have to go through any sort of bullying shenanigans that I had to go through. I love them both (although I don’t feel the need to repeatedly state that like some sort of medal of honour on Facebook as per some people) and I want them both to be doctor astronaut train drivers.

Throbbingsof noontide: You can’t possibly do it right. Fact. So just do it with love. Shit. I am turning into a fridge magnet.

Troy: You should employ a person to follow you about with a type-writer and tap out your thoughts. Pay them with the glory of watching art being formed.

Tony: If Wayne Rooney has already had 3 books published by the age of 27, I think we should all accept we’re massive failures and should join some sort of religious cult with a sexy mass suicide orgy ritual thing.

Throbbingsofnoontide: I’m up for that, so long as there’s a tea urn.

Tony: There’ll be a plate of custard creams, bourbon creams, rich tea and dark chocolate digestives at the side. Everyone will also have temporary passes as it’ll be held in a regional business conference centre. Knowledge of Powerpoint 2007 preferred.

Throbbingsofnoontide: We’d have to be grouped according to age, though.

Troy: Start a cult, make your own rules.

 Throbbingsofnoontide: Oh, I thought it was Tony’s cult.

Troy: Tony’s Cult. I like that. In my head, the working title was ‘We’re all shitter than Rooney, so let’s have sex, eat biscuits and die Cult.’ Tony’s Cult has more of a workaday ring to it.

Throbbingsofnoontide: It’s more appropriate to a cult that includes bourbons and Powerpoint.

 Tony: I agree. The burning question though, is should we purchase brand-name biscuits or conserve the Cult’s budget and buy cheaper alternatives from Aldi / Lidl? I also propose that the final slide of the Powerpoint Presentation should be a Risk Assessment of the massive orgy. Hazards I’ve identified to date are:-

- Chafing
– Biscuit crumbs
– Knee Dislocations
– Manual Handling
– Inadvertant Onanism

Troy: Inadvertant Onanism. I wouldn’t get that joke without you, Throbbings. If you’ve taught me one thing, it’s when to laugh at educated masturbation humour.

Joe: Throbbings, I read your very first blog when you posted it and remember thinking, “that was good, I will always read Throbbing’s blogs”. Some time later I read another one, maybe your 11th or something and thought “that was really, really good, why the hell have I not been following these? I’m going to go back and read the ones I missed, and I’ll definitely read them all from now on”. I think this is maybe the fourth or fifth of your blogs I’ve either bothered or remembered to read now and I’ve just spent the last three minutes punching myself in the face. I shudder to think of the amount of hours I’ve wasted doing something not as good as reading your blogs, the exact figure is hard to calculate but it’s somewhere in the region of ‘most hours’.

Throbbingsofnoontide: Troy, I am delighted that you learned something so useful.

 Paddy: This made my ovaries hurt. Love your blog posts. This one in particular.

Throbbingsofnoontide: Making a boy have ovaries is my finest achievement to date.

Troy: Ungraciously knocking the two boys with testicles that you made earlier off the top spot.

 Throbbingsofnoontide: I bought some cheap fingerless gloves in Tesco. They are very nice except they seem to have two tiny woolen testicles attached at each wrist. I do not understand their purpose.

 Troy: Obviously you bought the male pair – how else are gloves to reproduce, if not with miniscule material sex-organs?

Throbbingsofnoontide: Holy shit. I didn’t even know gloves were mammals.

 Joe: For what it’s worth, I agree with Tony, your writing is indeed special. Take this thread for instance, I love the way you’ve effortlessly weaved the characters of Troy, Paddy and Tony into what, on the face of it, seemed like an everyday thrilldramaromcomsciencehorrorporn about a middle-aged woman posting a blog. Very clever writing. Adding me into the mix two-thirds of the way in was a masterstroke, nobody saw me coming. Least of all me. I was like ‘oh, I’m not in this thread’, and then I was like ‘SHIT!!! Yes I am!!”. Reminded me a little of when Kevin Spacey turned out to be Luke Skywalker’s father at the end of “The Sixth Sense”. Brilliant. Criticisms – I thought you could have developed the character of Hayley a little more. I liked her a lot, but was left kinda wondering what was the point of her. Is she some kind of metaphor? I don’t get it. Also, having me analyse the story as part of the story in this bit of the story right here, well it’s amusing and everything in a kind of wry post-modern sort of way but this kind of thing’s been done many times now. Maybe it’s a subtle nod in the direction of Charlie Kauffman but if that’s the case, it needed to be a little more subtle. I dunno, just feels a bit ‘contrived’ to me, that’s all I’m saying. All of this, however, is not to detract from what I think has been one of your finest works to date. I give you a fluffy 9.

Mikey: I agree with Joe’s assessment of the plot to date in this thread but I can’t help feeling that the twist ending of me showing up and complaining about the ending is one of the all-time terrible endings. I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense. What am I even doing here? It’s ridiculous. I’ve had nothing at all to do with the story and suddenly I make a dramatic appearance? Honestly, Throbbings, I know you like to surprise your readers but you’ve really overdone it this time. The character of me has been a big mistake.

Joe: Hmmm….. my first instinct was to agree with you here, Mikey. I did think that. What _are_ you doing here? But then, is it not just possible that we’re both simply missing something really, really clever in Throbbing’s writing? I keep thinking back to that Hayley character. Perhaps you and her are connected in some deeply symbolic way? I have some theories on the subject: 1) You are a ghost. 2) Hayley is a ghost. 3) Hayley is a semi-fictitious character who, you manage to convince the authorities, is the mythical mastermind behind a game in which you were only a pawn, before revealing right at the death that you, in fact, are Hayley and leaving nonchalantly in the back of a limo, or 4) Hayley is your father. I actually think all four of those are possible but we’ll never find out if you keep talking over the ending.

Mikey: I don’t mean to keep talking over the ending, Joe, and I can’t help feeling that Throbbings should have made the character of me someone who _doesn’t_ talk over endings but I see what you mean about there possibly being something that we’ve missed earlier in the thread that would piece everything together. Like the bit where Hayley calls Throbbings, “Teen Machine”. Or the bit where Troy introduces the idea that there might be some Custard Creams available. Is it possible that Throbbings is, like, some kind of biscuit-manufacturing machine? And if so, how does that affect her relationship with Tony? Is it conceivable that Tony is going to turn out to be the same person as Hayley? That would be a good twist. I hope that happens. I also hope that you and I get married in the end.

Joe: I’d like that too, Mikey. I always hope that we get married when we’re in one of Throbbing’s threads together, but it never happens, does it. Usually she just has us waffle on for a bit in a way that clearly amuses both of us but more or less ruins the thread for everyone else, before eventually losing interest and returning somewhat sheepishly to our lexulous games. Do you ever feel like we’re becoming typecast? Don’t get me wrong, Throbbings writes way better dialogue for us than most people do but she still has us playing essentially the same two characters we always play. I sometimes think she could exploit our versatility a little more.

Throbbingsofnoontide: No, you’ve got it all wrong. I intended you to be sort of the Statler and Waldorf of the story. You’re the characters who reflect on what’s going on in the rest of the story. I think I may have made you too introspective; you weren’t supposed to start questioning the nature of your existence OR considering wedlock.

 Joe: Pfft. No-one’s ever going to believe a story in which Mikey and I don’t, at some point, consider wedlock. You can’t re-write the laws of physics.

Mikey: Agree with this webpipe. I enjoy well-written fiction as much as anyone but it has to stay at least within the realms of possibility. A story in which Joe and I appear but don’t actually _get_ married is one thing but one in which we don’t even think about it? I’ve never heard anything so ridiculous.

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So, probably, if you hate Facebook, it’s because you’ve got rubbish friends. I recommend you get some better ones forthwith.

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Oh, and thank you Drew at http://www.toothpastefordinner.com/. I love you a little bit.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Love (and more words than there should be)

We’re not a family that talks about love much. That doesn’t mean we don’t feel it – not at all – just that declarations of love can seem a bit insincere to our oh-so-British ears. This is particularly so when the word ‘love’ is flung about a lot in a relationship. To us it has impact only when used sparingly; anything else smacks of insecurity to our cynical ears.

So when son 2 was born and turned out to be a little package of enthusiastic and unabashed love it was a bit of a revelation; we were used to our more reserved toddler who really only wanted cuddles when he was sad or ill, and even then accepted them graciously rather than actively engaging with them like son 2 did. It has always been very easy to give love to our second son because he was born with a nature that invited it. It is harder to be sure that son 1 knows he is loved because he has become more and more detached from us as he has grown up.

Son 1 had a more difficult time growing up than son 2. When he was born we lived in a caravan on a traveller’s site with no running water, no electricity, no sanitation and drunk people all around. I was too immature of mind to deal well with my new responsibility and knew little or nothing of the psychology of children. I became post-natally depressed and if it wasn’t for my spouse, things could have been a disaster. He faced responsibility with determination, compassion and even a little joy. He got up and did the night feeds and woke me up for the morning feeds by singing along to cheerful songs on the radio and handing me a cup of tea.

We loved son 1 tremendously, but we weren’t the finest of all parents. We were very poor, we didn’t know what we were doing and we were tired and stressed much of the time. It wasn’t the best start for a sensitive young boy, regardless of how much we adored him. We made a lot of mistakes. When we moved into a house and son 1 went to playgroup and then primary school, he was only too aware of our difference from other parents. We were still big-booted, pierced and grubby and we didn’t have fitted kitchens or smart cars. He felt this acutely, but rarely said anything about it; he instead spent his time with other families who were more securely rooted in the ‘conventional’ lifestyle that he preferred.

Our son is now 21 and at university. He is independent, clever, witty and stylish and we are incredibly proud of him. When I think of him, however, I am always a little sad because he remains quite detached. It’s nothing serious or terrible, but he wouldn’t choose to spend time with us; he doesn’t really know what to talk to us about and he resists engaging with our interests and humour. Having son 2 has shown me what a parent/child relationship can be and at the moment I don’t have this with my firstborn. It saddens me to my stomach that he was the one who had to suffer the brunt of my parenting mistakes and that son 2 received all the benefits of what we learned from them.

But, son 1 does phone us when he has a problem and he did turn to me when he had his heart broken. I take solace from this and have a secret fantasy that one day, when he has children of his own, he might understand. In my fantasy, he is a famous fashion designer or journalist or publicist or something, and he’s on Desert Island Discs. He chooses a record that has something to do with his childhood and he says, ‘I was a very different person from my parents, but I realise now how much they loved me.’

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In which I make a list and get sidetracked by homosexuality

Even after only a short time away, I miss my blog.

I miss reading and communicating with my fellow bloggers and I miss thinking about stuff long enough to write words about it. But I’ve gone back to work after three months of shell-shocked off-sickness and now my brain is full of other things again. It’s full of reasonably interesting other things – but other things nonetheless.

I do have some things I want to blog about, but I don’t seem to be able to pin myself down long enough to write about them coherently because there’s dog hair on the sofa, the washing machine needs emptying and I need to teach myself about schemas and apertures and interview skills by Friday.

So… I’ve decided to bullet point some of the things I’ve been thinking about/ doing in lieu of the series of blog posts they could have been/will be one day. Here they are:

1. I have a new job. It is not horrible. In fact, it’s VERY un-horrible. This week it involved visiting a place where I could shoot lasers at my students and get paid for it. And I don’t have to do any marking.

Here are two students fighting back.
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2. I have a car. An actual car. One that drives and fits things in. I’ve filled it up with wool, tennis balls, mini whiteboards, magazines, cardboard, sheepskin offcuts, playing cards, books and sandy blankets, and now it feels like HOME.

3. I’ve been thinking about masculinity. And dads. About how valuable masculinity is – and how misrepresented. I decided to write a post about it and/or start a Bring Back Men campaign. In preparation, I started to read around online, and found myself drowning in the furious dichotomous histrionics of the extremists of the ‘Feminist’ and ‘Masculinist’ movements. So much so that I had to have a bit of a lie down. A post will happen on this subject when I’ve recovered.

4. Pubes again. I went back to my old place of work and met the teacher who has inherited my job. He is teaching Equus, the play by Peter Shaffer in which the character Alan has a religious and sexual orgasm while riding naked on the back of a horse and yelling. My colleague observed that the students, on watching a 1970s film version of the play, were more horrified by Jenny Agutter having pubic hair than they were by Alan’s horsegasm.

5. I started basic photography classes and may have an f-stop diagram tatooed on my arm because I can’t seem to retain the information. I think it’s because it involves fractions.

6. I sat on a rock at Poly Joke beach and a seal popped up almost at arm’s length. It kept submerging and then reappearing even closer so it could get a better look. I didn’t know seals were so nosy, but I’m glad.Image

7. I started reading a book called Androphilia, written by a gay man who argues that the stereotypical gay identity is…

“… a subculture, a slur, a set of gestures, a slang, a look, a posture, a parade, a rainbow flag, a film genre, a taste in music, a hairstyle, a marketing demographic, a bumper sticker, a political agenda and philosophical viewpoint. Gay is a pre-packaged superficial persona. Gay is a sexual identity that has almost nothing to do with sexuality…”

He goes on to say that his book is…

“for those men who never really bought into what the gay community was selling. It is a challenge to leave the gay world completely behind and to rejoin the world of men, unapologetically, as androphiles, but more importantly, as men.”

This is a subject I find really interesting because I’ve always wondered why people who are attracted to members of the same sex should want their partner to imitate the opposite sex. Why should lesbians be ‘butch’ and gay men ‘effeminate’?

I remember reading Foucault’s The History of Sexuality where he argued that homosexual desire has always been a natural part of the human spectrum of sexuality and that it was the Victorians who decided to categorise it as entirely separate from ‘normal’ heterosexuality.

He said that although ‘sodomy’ was seen as abhorrent in the Bible – so Christians disapproved of it – sodomy was a sexual act, not a persona or a way of life. The Victorians, he said, labelled individuals who regularly performed homosexual acts as ‘inverts’ – men whose gender/sex was kind of upside down. Homosexuals were seen as men with too much woman in their makeup.

I don’t know how true Foucault’s version of the history of homosexuality is, but it has always made me wonder why – if the Victorians thought homosexuality was all about men who were too female and needed curing – why did the revolutionary gay movement adopt a style in which gay men tend to perform a type of femaleness? Surely that is pandering to Victorian ideas of sexuality? Surely if you fancy men, then it’s their ‘masculine’ traits that are attractive? If you’re a lesbian, why would you fancy ‘masculine’ females?

I expect I’ll get verbally kicked in the head for this post by those who will argue that ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are social constructs (and I have sympathy with that idea in the main but do acknowledge also that there are some rather pleasing biological differences between males and females), but never mind. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about. And I think the book Androphilia gets a bit troubling later – I think he goes on to blame Feminism for gay culture. *sigh*.

8. Pubes AGAIN. My friend H said she ended up talking about pubes in one of her lessons after observing that there’s only a one day shag window available after you’ve had your pubes waxed off. A group of young female students in her class said there was no way they were buying into all that shit about having to yank all the hairs out of their pubic region. H was delighted.

9. I saw these cats.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

This week’s photo challenge is another difficult one… I haven’t consciously made any new year’s resolutions because I don’t need any more excuses to feel like someone who never finishes what she starts. Not excuses – reasons. The reason I feel like someone who never finishes what she starts is because I frequently don’t finish what I start.

I could resolve to lose this extra stone, to stop procrastinating, to do some exercise, to start my business, to hoover more often, to give lollipops to passing children, to buy something from local businesses each week (although I don’t know what I’d buy from Barbs lil *shop* which only sells the following items):

barbBut none of those resolutions move me enough to actually try to keep them, so there was no obvious answer to what I could post for the ‘Resolved’ challenge. That is, until we found some lovely drifted bricks on Porthluney beach today (I’m not lying – the beach is effectively called Porth Loony). Driftbricks. I’m not sure how they got there… I wonder if someone’s whole house floated out to sea in the recent floods.

The bits of old building were so appealing that I collected them into a pile and spouse (who always fancied a job working for Lego) built a small village. Here it is:

Walking back to the car afterwards, we noticed that there were other little piles of rocks dotted around the beach; clearly we weren’t the only ones moved to try to create something in the rain.  “Humans” spouse said, “can’t stop building things.” That’s a splendid thing about humans, I thought. And then I realised I have made a sort of resolution for this year; I’ve just done it semi-unconsciously. I’ve changed my job to one that should enable me to be more creative in my work, but also should free me up to be more creative in everyday life.

So my resolution is MAKE MORE STUFF. And this little New Year Driftvillage is a representation of that.

Freedom of choice isn’t always freedom

My wellies have split, so yesterday I walked Porthtowan beach with my left foot sloshing about in seawater as warm as amniotic fluid. I loved my wellies, and am very sad to have to replace them. Apart from the fact that they are beautiful, what I most loved about them was that I didn’t have to choose them – my mum chose them for me – and I’ve come to realise that I hate making choices.

wellies 3I realised this after spending two hours (possibly more) inspecting wellies online. What a total waste of time; time that I could have spent pinning down where human consciousness stems from or finally sorting out a viable sustainable alternative to oil and thereby saving the world. But instead I spent that precious fraction of my life comparing prices, reviews, aesthetics and practicality of rubber footwear.

In the version of the past that I remember, when one needed wellies, one went to a shoe shop where they stocked one type of welly in a choice of dull green or black. Fancy ones had ‘Dunlop’ written on the side, but that was it. And they cost about £3.99.

Today I discovered that the welly situation in the West is very, very different now. Wellies have spread and mutated and developed all sorts of confusing added extras which resulted in  my total failure to actually buy any. I became overwhelmed and – I admit it – very slightly stressed by all the choices. If there were only dull green or black all-the-same wellies in the world, I would have purchased a pair in about 2 minutes flat and gone about the rest of my day without a care in the world knowing that shortly I would be able to walk the dog without developing Trench Foot. But all this choice leads to brain-addling indecision.

Plain wellies, to be fair, do still exist. Here they are.

basic wellyAnd if I wasn’t a spoilt brat Westerner, I would just buy these and get on with working out if there is a finite upper bound on the multiplicities of the entries greater than 1 in Pascal’s triangle.

But, how can I just contendedly buy those when THESE exist?

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If I bought these, just looking at them would make me happy every day. But, apart from the fact that they are nearly £30 more than the dull ones, would I feel embarrassed sporting the ‘Joules’ logo on the front of my legs? Probably. Joules is  brand that yells “I AM QUIRKY MIDDLE CLASS! I RECYCLE AND OWN A SCRUFFY MONGREL! I EAT QUINOA AND HAVE MISMATCHED CHINA! I GROW MY OWN ARTICHOKES!” So maybe I need something a little more understated. Maybe these:

hunterThese appear quite unassuming, but they are branded too, and this brand is only pretending to be understated. People who wear Hunter wellies (especially dirty ones) are saying/trying to say, “These wellies have been in the family for generations, you know. My great, great grandfather wore them shooting with Lord Wilberforce of Durham. Have you met my labrador, Monty?” PLUS they cost nearly £80, so sod that. I read a review of these where someone had written, “I love my Hunters so much I’ve bought some for my husband and both the children”… There are people in the world who will spend £320 on rubber footwear. I am not one of those.

I can honestly say that I would not care ONE BIT if there were no choice whatsoever in the realm of the wellington boot. I wouldn’t feel the need to wield a banner proclaiming that we are being oppressed by a lack of variety in waterproof footwear. Or kettles. Or cars. Or irons. Or electric sanders. Or washing powder. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has stood in a  supermarket being trolley-bashed repeatedly while staring at the variety of washing powders stretching as far as the horizon both ways and sobbing quietly to myself, “I just want one that cleans clothes.” WHAT CRITERIA are we supposed to use to decide which one to buy? The cheapest? The prettiest? Names we have heard of? Smell? Word-of-mouth? Just PASS ME ONE and I’ll leave quietly. Same thing happened when I was buying a second hand car. They were ALL CARS. They all had steering wheels and exhaust pipes. How was I supposed to CHOOSE between them? Does it drive? Can I sit down in it? Does it stop again when I’ve finished? It happens in restaurants too. Apart from anything with seafood in, I could probably eat any of it. I usually deal with the problem by  waiting until the waiter looks at me expectantly, see what leaps into my brain, and order that. I wish they would just issue me with a meal. So long as there’s a cup of tea at some point, I’ll be happy.

When spouse and I became parents for the first time – 22 years ago – we were (cringe) Anarchists, and we believed that our young son should be given freedom to make his own choices in everything. I still believe this, I suppose, but what I didn’t see then is that we’re not really equipped to make free choices without substantial guidance until we’re much older (and in my case, never). The amount of free choice we gave him, we eventually realised, caused him great stress because he would panic even over seemingly trivial choices – if I choose this one, then I might regret it and realise that the other option was better – too much choice used to freeze his faculties with anxiety and then cause him to enjoy his final choice less than he would have under different circumstances.

I don’t know if it’s possible to draw any conclusions from this and my own experiences with choice-based distress, but I wonder if the fact that the doctrine of freedom of choice is used everywhere nowadays is really as healthy as we like to believe it is. Certainly in the area of consumerism it can be pretty distasteful, and in education I believe that choice has been at least partly responsible for a big decline in real learning as opposed to qualification-collecting. But that’s a whole other story.

While I was searching for (and failing to find) an entertaining image for this post, I found this TED talk instead. I think Barry Schwartz says it much better than I did. Damn him.

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Oh, and I’d be grateful if someone could just choose some wellies for me. Thanks.

Image by http://dannyburgess.tumblr.com/
Image by http://dannyburgess.tumblr.com/