Tim Roxborogh on the joys of moaning about your holidays.
"Choice no longer liberates, but debilitates". This is a partial quote from the now classic 2004 book from Barry Schwartz, The Paradox Of Choice, and while the full quote talks about how unbearable life is when we have no choices, lacking choices isn't what's on my mind right now.
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Remember how exciting the inflight entertainment systems of airplanes used to be? I never cared how long a flight was because I'd settle in, watch a bunch of movies and TV shows, listen to music, play computer games, look forward to the meal and generally, enjoy the passing of time.
Those inflight entertainment systems were so different from real life. For the majority of Kiwis, for so many years we spent our time watching three channels. Sure, Sky and a growing number of free-to-air options broadened horizons, but nothing on terra-firma could ever come close to the bonanza of options in the air.
Back then, the choices upon take-off were liberating, as Schwartz would say. I revelled in it. Or perhaps more accurately, I found it fun, but I didn't take too long with it, either. The sparkly newness of the experience was so strong, I'd flick through potential films and as soon as I found something that appealed, I'd watch.
There was never that hideous inner voice asking, "this movie seems okay, but is there something better I should be watching?" Ironically, there probably always was something better, but I don't remember ever being too fussed. Besides, I could watch it next.
Oh, what quaint days! At home right now I have the equivalent of - if it was the year 2000 – three brilliant inflight entertainment systems. We have Netflix, Lightbox and Amazon Prime, and now the fact literally hundreds of movies and shows are constantly available to us is so unremarkable, so too are inflight entertainment systems.
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Where once they seemed like time travel to the future, they're now time travel to the past. My brain can't compute all the choice, while at the same time I'm annoyed the choice isn't as good as our own personal streaming services. All of which is ridiculous.
We are now so accustomed to endless choice, that what most airlines offer can feel limited. And yet in the air, I now have the same dreadful paralysis of choice I have on the ground, where I'm certain I spend as much time trying to decide what to watch on Netflix as I actually spend watching. Half the time I just add shows to my watchlist and then give up.
This affliction has spread to when I'm travelling. First I get cross there isn't enough choice, but the choices are still beyond what anyone could ever need. And now there's no longer the magic novelty of, "Oh my gosh, I can watch whatever I want, whenever I want!", I'm in the habit of grass-is-always-greener restlessness.
Schwartz somehow wrote about all of this years before it happened. Like the Nostradamus of streaming and inflight entertainment, he was right: it's debilitating.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com.