Paralyzed by Choice: Why the Facebook Generation Can't Make Up Its Mind
The problem with our generation is that we have trouble making decisions. The explosion of the web, the endless growth of new technologies available at our fingertips, and the continual bombardment of social media provide a unique dilemma for our generation: we have too many options. With so many choices, our opportunities are endless.
Though this may seem like a rather trivial issue amidst all the problems of our time, it actually posits a larger challenge: how do we choose?
That has been my perennial problem: how do I decide what matters in my life? To our generation, everything seems so important, so pressing, so urgent. Everything happens instantaneously, and if we don’t make immediate decisions we miss the train. However, let’s say we pick a train, how do we know we picked the right one, the train that’s worth all of our time, energy, and devotion?
We don’t want to be labeled screw-ups, or spend our lives trying to figure out how to decide, so we do one of two things: we either wait, or we participate in everything and anything that comes our way. Here’s a breakdown of how it goes:
Option A: Wait Things Out
Our generation pretends that maybe if we wait things out, everything will work out. One day, we think, we’ll wake up having all the answers that will then allow us to change the world … because good things come to those who wait. Right?
Sometimes, from our vantage point, every task seems daunting, every possibility seems slim, and every challenge seems like a mountain. We are young, we are inexperienced, and many a time, we are at an utter loss of where to search and where to start.
Therefore, starting becomes the most difficult decision of them all because it requires commitment. Once you choose to start something, it becomes an unspoken agreement to try something new and accept all the risks accompanied with that task, including the very tangible chance of failure.
We see our friends and our inspirations accomplishing so much. They began that start-up, they took that calculated risk, and they started that initiative, but how? Where did that motivation, assistance, and courage come from? How did they know what to do and where to begin? As long as those questions remain unanswered, we remain idle -- wasting away our potential as the days drag on and nights pass by.
The problem with our generation isn’t necessarily apathy, it’s that we’re scared of our own abilities and ambition.
Internationally renowned author, Marianne Williamson, had it right when she said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
Our generation, often times, is paralyzed by fear. Fear that what we do will be insufficient, sub-par, or pointless. We want to effect change and contribute to society, but we’re afraid that maybe our contributions will be insignificant or invaluable.
Ambitious beyond measure, our generation does not settle for anything less than extraordinary because we know that if we can just unlock the secret, we too can be extraordinary. We have all these ideas and all this built-up passion, but we are scared and just don’t know how or where to channel it. We want to devote ourselves to meaningful, impactful work and not spread ourselves too thin – but every issue seems important.
Which leads me to the other alternative: sometimes we choose to act upon everything that comes our way.
Option B: Take On Too Much
Sometimes, all those opportunities we are presented with seem too amazing to pass by. We would be stupid to not take up that job, internship, leadership position, club, sport, etc. We all want to advance in our future, which is so dependent on the choices we make today. We don’t want to mess up and miss out on something that could have helped us in our climb to a successful tomorrow. So instead, we spread ourselves thin. We throw ourselves into everything that we find remotely interesting and dabble in all that we can in the hopes that, just maybe, we will find the passion that sets us on fire.
We all have so many passions, which makes deciding on what to get involved in, and choosing which interests matter the most excruciatingly difficult. How do we ascribe more value to one thing over another when both are equally important? That’s the problem we face and it’s not a petty one either. This is what we’re choosing to do with our time, our effort, and our lives. It matters.
However, when we attempt to take on all those activities, we are unable to succeed. Other things start to slip, maybe our grades drop and we sleep even less than we normally do. Instead, we become mediocre and get stuck because, once again, we are unable to decide.
So while it’s incredible that we do have so many options, those options tend to also complicate matters and, at times, make it more difficult for us to choose where we should go and what we should pursue.
Can we reconcile our indecision and desire to change the status quo? We need to find a middle ground between the dichotomies of waiting and taking on more than we can handle. We need to find out what we are truly passionate about because the sooner we can figure out what we’re meant to do, the sooner our contributions will become more worthwhile and meaningful.
That being said, it is wonderful that we are not bound by limitations or a lack of options, like the generations of our parents were. The world literally is in our hands and we can freely make choices. We all possess so much potential and so much power, the trouble is that we’re still trying to figure out how to effectively harness all of it towards the betterment of the world (most of us anyway).
Maybe we can start by establishing how we view ourselves. If you define yourself as a Human Rights Activist interested in issues relating to poverty, then maybe those feminist-related activities should not be the number on priority on your list. And on that topic, what are your priorities? If academics or jobs come first, followed by your activities, you need to (realistically) figure out how much time you have to devote to your passions. Then start by taking small steps. It’s not necessary to create your own initiative from the get-go, but learn from others, build up a series of small victories, and figure out how your time would be best utilized – sometimes, it’s not always being the one in charge. Once again, there’s no one-way of fixing our problems so we can solve the real ones. We have our choices.
Everyday we actively choose what to make of our lives, but sometimes we get stuck. As millennials we are still trying to strike that balance between trying it all, and discovering what really matters to us. Hopefully we will master it sooner rather than later.