In the recent months I have realized that more and more teens I work with are dealing with their poor ability to make decisions. I am not saying they make poor decisions, but rather that they are poor at making any decision at all. I also find that many of my friends describe themselves as ‘indecisive’ and ‘fickle.’ When I ask them about this, they often say that there are too many ways they can get help in making decisions—both big and small, so they never make it themselves. This is causing us to lose—or outsource completely, the ability to make good decisions because we are out of practice.
Are we outsourcing our decision making ability to technology? I think, maybe. Here is how:
Let Simon Decide is a decision making site that gives advice to help you decide what option you should choose. I think this can be fun, but when you read some of the questions people have submitted, you cannot help but wonder: Shouldn’t this person be making this decision themselves? Sometimes there are big questions people submit. I think many people would rather have random people answer the question, than go through the difficulty of figuring out their own right answer and then getting it wrong.
Hunch personalizes the internet by getting to know users and then making recommendations for what they might like. This one is not as bad as outsourcing decisions, but it definitely takes the pleasure out of hunting for sites that you like.
Ask500 uses the idea of crowd wisdom to find answers. Users can submit questions and the community votes. Answers are collected and after 500 have been submitted you get your decision. I do like utilizing the wisdom of crowds, but I also wonder can we really give answers to serious questions about life, relationships and careers based on what is in a paragraph? And should we (non-experts, without knowing this person) be answering at all?
Many teens submit questions to their news feed or status updates and ask friends to respond. Everything from “Should I go to the beach for vacation or the snow?” or even more serious things like, “Should I go to grad school?” This is a bit better than Ask500 and Let Simon Decide because at least your friends know you. But sometimes I think that other people’s ideas only cloud our own opinions. Inner reflection is important and only we can know our own answers…especially to big life questions. Teens especially have the problem of not taking their friends opinions as suggestions and not fact and then separating their own thoughts from those of their peers.
By outsourcing our decisions, we hope that if the answer turns out to be wrong, we are not to blame. I think outsourcing our decision-making is, ultimately, a way to maneuver around ever being wrong. After all a person who used Ask500 to decide whether or not to buy his apartment, could just say, “Well, guess those people were wrong,” when the house loses market value a year later. As humans, we need to be wrong sometimes because this helps us learn. We also need to make our own decisions by listening to our hearts, our logic and thinking about the repercussions of potential decisions. I challenge you to think twice about using some of the online tools to make bigger decisions. I believe decisiveness is an ability that is seriously underrated.
Most importantly, we need to talk to our teens about how they make decisions. Are they using Facebook to socialize or are they posting some minor and major dilemmas? Do they ever use networks to seek advice? What are the pros and cons to using Facebook for advice over person to person? These are all questions that parents should be asking their teens so that they can make their own decisions when it comes to the big ones.