The vast amount of information available on the Internet has changed my life in many ways. Most of them are good. For example, if I am in desperate need of a recipe for fudge, or if I want to find out why my clothes dryer is making a squealing noise, or even if I want to look up the citation for an article I wrote 10 years ago- the information is but a quick Internet search away.
A problem with all this information- too many options. During this season of holiday gift giving, I have found myself researching products excessively. Rather than taking the time to find a reputable local dealer of an item and asking knowledgeable sales persons their recommendation, I spend hours looking for all the relevant information, reviews, and best deals on the Internet. Recently, I actually bought a knife set as a gift without researching it. Then, full of buyer’s remorse, I spent over an hour trying to determine if it was the best product for the price. In the end, I bought something else, had to return the original set, and lost 2 hours of my life. It is unlikely that my gift recipient would have been disappointed that they received a knife set with only “very good,” rather than “excellent” cutting ability.
Since purchases do not generally improve our overall life satisfaction or happiness, are they really worthy of such extensive time and effort? In Jonah Lehrer‘s book, How we Decide, he talks about how we become overwhelmed when provided with too much information in our decision making. Knowing more about something can actually lead to worse decisions. It is best to identify a small number of key features and make a decision. I am going to remember this the next time I am tempted to research whether or not I got the best possible deal on a set of knives I bought as a gift.
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