Choices, choices

Sometimes if sleep is hiding from me and/or I can’t manage to throw out boredom, I’ve been known to browse the games section of the app store.

Tonight was just a night for such window shopping and I combed the games section (specifically the ‘free’ category as I am just that stingy) to see what jewels I could find.

As I read the blurb and looked at the screen shots, I found myself making my decision on the basis of the reviews. And, before too long, found myself simply looking at the number of stars the game had got from unknown reviewers and if it wasn’t up to scratch, I wouldn’t bother to even look at the blurb or the pictures.

A reasonable way to act, you may say. That’s what reviews are there for, you may add. And I would agree to an extent- I would go through pages and pages of reviews before choosing a new mobile phone for example. Or purchasing something expensive like a car or home appliance. Reviewing has its place- as long as they are wide and varied of course.

But what about making a decision solely based on reviews? And reviews from strangers- not necessarily “experts in the field”?

I may be making a huge jump and delving into the rants of a late-night pregnant lady; however are we so swayed by what the world thinks that we forget that we can make decisions ourselves? Or how to make those decisions?

For many of us (and after tonight’s game searching antics it looks like I am not totally immune either) the choices we make hang on the views of others. Sometimes it may even be people that we don’t even know. In our desperate attempt to be accepted and, dare I say it, ‘popular’ in the eyes of our peers, could it be that our decisions aren’t always based on the correct principles? I would say that I am quite independent and more than capable of free thought and making decisions. But this little incident tonight has thrown me. All of our ideologies and views can be affected by the world around us- I think we would be lying to ourselves if we thought any different- but how many (or to what extent) are our decisions shaped by the thoughts and feelings of others?
Asking advice of trusted family and friends is a great thing, and I am certainly not advocating against that. But what about the advice of strangers? Advice that makes up a societal view. If such a thing exists. Or a general view. Or a stereotype. Or a prejudice.

We all have a desperate desire to fit in. We can pretend that we don’t care but most of us (at least!) really do.
I was watching a programme on tv tonight where the presenter briefly visited the village/town of an Amish community in America. Now, before I get into trouble here, I have nothing against Amish communities and I have to admit that I am very ignorant about their beliefs, customs and lifestyles. But one aspect of the report comes to mind as I write this blog.

As the presenter was talking to the Amish gentleman and asking questions such as “why don’t Amish men have moustaches?” and the man himself spoke how they weren’t allowed to have pockets in their shirts, one thing became apparent. As the question of “why?” crossed the presenter’s lips, the Amish gentleman could offer no reason beyond “well, we all want to look as similar as possible.”

Traditions that have become so ingrained in a culture that they are not totally sure why they are there. Apart from the fact that, ultimately, they all want to fit in- to look the same. Now, I will say again that I am not running down Amish communities or individuals: I respect their way of life and discipline. And I am far too ignorant to pass judgement anyway. But is a need/desire/law to fit in, to be accepted, showcased here? Or is this simply a situation where decision is completely taken away? It is probably not life changing as to whether your shirt has a pocket or not but does the principle behind such a tradition run deeper in our communities than we would like to admit?

Sometimes decisions have to be taken out of some hands. For example, as my husband and I wait to become parents for the first time, we are not going to let our baby decide whether they should stick their fingers on a hot cooker or not. We will protect them from that danger and make that decision for them. But when they are teenagers and deciding what their future steps are; who are we to decide? How will our child decide? I doubt I would have gone to university myself were it not for the fact that the group of friends I had were applying for uni and college and I thought I would do the same. It wasn’t the background I came from, but it was the future I decided. A positive example of influence and peer pressure, but we all know that it doesn’t always go so well in other situations.

I feel as if I have opened a can of worms. Either that, or this really is a baby-brain rant. But where do the solutions to our dilemmas lie? Peers? Society? Religion? Faith? Strangers? A mixture of all those and more?

I wish I knew. Life is all about the decisions we make and the paths we choose- be that the big calls or the small calls. Our decisions define our future and there is no getting away from them. But how do we choose? Do we even know the extent of the influence others have over us? Maybe it is only when a friend has observed a relationship and is able to say “im sorry, but I think that person is having a negative affect on you…” that we can step back and look at things ourselves.

We do become more like the people we spend the most time with and their views will affect ours, positively our negatively, and improvement or compromise can often follow. And sometimes that caring friend is all we need to re-align our own thoughts.

I can’t help but think- if the direction and quality of our life is decided by the choices that we make, then surely we should be more aware of where those final decisions are originating from?

Choices, choices; how do you make yours?


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