With all the social and recommendations, can we still be ourselves?
The internet, globalization, and increasingly cheap manufacturing have created a world with incredible number of products, shelves, and choices. In response to the daunting amount of ways we can design our lives, we’ve also designed myriads of platforms where we can collect each other’s opinions on the choices we can make.
Looking for a book or basically any non-consumable product? Amazon has millions of reviews and ratings from which you can base your decision.
Fancy a movie after your date? Look at what people are saying about the new blockbuster on IMDb.
Searching for a hotel and a museum for your next holiday? Ask the thousands of travelers who came before you on Tripadvisor.
Don’t know what to read on the New York Times website? Just look at the most e-mailed articles.
In a world with increasing choices and increasing ability to be more unique with those choices we make, we’ve become increasingly shy about making those choices ourselves. When the long tail opened up, we’re trying our hardest to swim up to the head.
Why are we doing this?
Sociologists and anthropologists would argue that this is because humans are inherently social beings and that we have the need to feel part of the group. Unlike some animals, we operate in herds and we do things to belong to the herd.
I would argue that we are raised to believe that there are good and bad, better and worse, and best and worst choices. With such a way of thinking, we are scared of making the wrong choices and will look for ways to make ourselves believe that we are making the right choices.
No matter the underlying theory, the consequences are clear:
Polarization is human nature. While we like to believe in equality and equal distribution, we act in a way that is against it.
Independent choices and thoughts are scary. We say “be different,” but we inherently don’t want to.
All this, of course, isn’t new with the internet. We’ve always had friends from whom we can gather opinions, magazines in which we can read reviews, and advertisements from which we can deduce what everyone is thinking about. It’s just that the internet is taking it to another level.
What will you do in such a world? And what future technologies in the future will aid us in being even more of the pack?