Generation Z: Caged in the Freedom of Choice?

We all know the feeling when you order a takeaway, and the choice of what to pick takes longer than it would to cook a meal

The 10 pages we scroll through on ASOS to find a simple item of clothing. The struggle of which type of milk to buy – oat, almond, rice, coconut, skimmed cow milk, semi-skimmed… the list goes on.

Paradoxically, freedom of choice has become the number one burden for our generation, also known as Generation Z, growing up in an era of constant information flow. We are constantly confronted with the appeal of consumption– it seems as though everything, everywhere is growing larger, better, faster.

Barry Schwartz, an American psychologist, notes in his book The Paradox of Choice, that our choices are often dictated by ‘regret, self-blame and opportunity costs.’ Schwartz is not the only one to point to this challenge –Renata Salecl’s The Tyranny of Choice, reviewed in The Guardian, addresses the “feelings of inadequacy and guilt” stemming from freedom of choice. Pressure is increasingly put on the individual’s choices – and our generation is the first to suffer from it.

As opportunities are multiplying in an increasingly connected world, so is the necessity of making choices. This is less of a benign blessing and more of an imposing force. Some of us may not be able to pinpoint the cause of our recurring uncertainty and exhaustion. But the feeling of over-stimulus and of being swamped with an invisible load might be the consequence of the constant filtering of options we are forced to conduct every hour of every day.

These looming choices span from small-scale decisions, such as which emoji to put in your text message, to crucial career decisions. These choices are anything but trivial, and can become overwhelming for a single person to bear. We usually associate choice with freedom, and we tend to perceive freedom as a luxury we must not take for granted. But for the sake of our wellbeing, we must also realize that sometimes too much choice can cause us harm.

As mentioned in The Guardian, Dave Lewis, Tesco chief executive, has recognised this as well – he has decided to reduce the number of products offered on the shelves by 30%. Still, Tesco’s current 50 choices of bread type manage to freeze our usually snatching hands at the shelves.

We must not let the tyranny of choice sweep our generation’s creativity and energy. If we find ways of coping with the vehemence of choices and channel them towards our personal interests we might see the web of choices as less of a labyrinth and more of an opportunity.