I had a few different ways I was planning on opening this, but I couldn't quite choose any one of them in particular, so I ended up with this.
And now I'm not quite sure if I used that sort of pun on purpose or not. Whichever one sounds better to you is the way it happened, I guess.
Now down to business. By business I mean, of course, the topic of choice. There is a lot I want to say here, so let's dive right in.
Choices are not bad. But they are the cause of most stress. Most anyone can attest to this being the case throughout life, but I'd like to talk about choice in relation to technology. Allow me to start really small, and work my way up.
So you know the great iOS/Mac app Reeder? You know how the iPhone version has that sweet syncing status bar overlay at the top? It used to be that if you tapped it, it would change from covering the whole status bar to only being a small icon in the corner of it. Every once in a while I would switch it from one setting to another because I could never really decide which one I liked better. Obviously it made no difference, but the ability to change it was there, so I would play around with it. In a recent update though, to work with iOS 5, that functionality was changed, and now the only option is to have it span the entire top bar. And there goes my having to make a decision, and along with it, a minuscule point of stress. Now, I don't care about the status bar anymore because there is nothing I can do to change it anyway. So I am happy with how it is.
I must have rearranged the layout of my iOS homescreens dozens of times. And I put a lot of thought into each time I do it. Way back when that was not an option, I never had to choose how I wanted to arrange my apps. Sure, it would have been nice to be able to do so, and over all I am glad they added this option, but be honest with yourself over just how much time, thought, and difficult choices have gone into your iOS homescreen. Oh, and the same can easily apply to the wallpaper on iOS - how many times do you change that?! - and even your Mac OS X dock.
Here's an interesting one: my desk, and its arrangement. I currently have a corner desk arranged just how I like it. It took quite a bit of time to get it there, and I'm still trying to find the perfect angle for my iMacs' monitor. I like my desk a lot, but I think for the next one I'll go with just a straight one. Why? Because it's easier to achieve a sleeker look. There's less room, less choice of moving things around on the desk, specifically the monitor, and thus less stress. (Plus, as a side note, there's an even edge to rest your hands on for typing as opposed to the curve of my corner desk, but more on that in a future post).
I think all I've done so far is give you a bunch of cases in which choice is the cause of stress when it comes to technology. Let me know really drive the point home and clarify what I mean by all this:
There is a certain bliss when you don't have to make a choice. Or more specifically, when a choice is made for you. Most all of our stress comes from having to make choices, so why not take some of that stress away? Well, because having choices made for us can result in some bad choices, and ones we don't agree with. I need to be able to choose and configure certain things just how I like them.
The fact is that most people are not like Steve Jobs who literally would not buy any furniture for a long time because he couldn't find anything that was perfect enough for him. We'll use something that isn't perfect anyway, and customize and tweak it until one day we feel that it is perfect for us. And so it will stay for, hopefully, a long while until, perhaps, we decide that it is no longer perfect, and we tweak it some more. But wouldn't it be easier if we never had to do that tweaking? Just think about stress. There is something beautiful to opening an app like iA Writer and knowing that there is not a single setting that you can change - even if you wanted to. Sure, ByWord has very few settings, and it's far better than other apps (and is my writing app of choice). But even those few settings presented some alight amount of stress when I first started using it until I set it to just the way I wanted it.
And now I'm sure you're intersected in seeing how I have it set. To better assist you in setting yours. Same with iOS homescreens, and Mac OS X Docks, and on and on. There is some great fun in all of that, but it is also the point of stress. Maybe just a little, and maybe at times a lot. But it is there nonetheless.
Again, I am not saying we should have all our choices made for us. Nor do I really have a solution to this not-quite-a-problem but still the cause of some stress. What we need is balance between choice and lack thereof. Where the choices are very easily made, the stress is very minimal, and is over quickly. A balance that has yet to be perfected in most places. So, I suppose this is all just an interesting observation I am trying to make in the hopes of getting somewhat there.
I know perhaps this wasn't my best written post, but I found this really hard to get into words coherently. I think I got my point across though.
Maybe it's only me, but I am pretty sure that I am not alone in spending countless hours tweaking and perfecting the settings of all sorts of different things. And that it is a point of some sort of stress.
What do you think?