Welcome to the digital world – Part 2: The illusion of choice


Digital profits

The digital world is here. And as I talked about in Part 1, digital has changed just about everything we take for granted in the modern world. Our everyday lives revolve around the internet, mobile networks and the ability to communicate and consume online.

Digital has completely changed our expectations of the world. We expect information, entertainment and services to be available instantly wherever we are. And we want them delivered NOW, this second, because we’ve become a little spoilt and impatient.

The digital services we consume are sold to us not just on the basis of speed, though. Choice is a big factor as well. We’re told that we have more options, more possibilities and more alternatives than ever before. It’s given us an unrivalled ability to choose.

But do we really have more choice?

Do you really have the freedom to choose?

The concept of ‘choice’ is questionable.

In this digital world, we have the option to consume pretty much every book, movie, TV show or piece of music ever created. All these pieces of art and human creativity are there in digital formats, waiting to be downloaded, streamed and generally consumed.

Every product and service you can imagine can be found online, and every business, big or small, has it’s digital domain and website where it plies its trade. So, in theory, as an individual consumer, we have the choice of absolutely anything. The world is our digital oyster, as it were.

But is that true?

Digital makes you easier to target

We may believe we have complete freedom of choice, but in reality we’re still being herded towards specific products, specific movies and specific albums. And that’s down to marketing, advertising, PR and social and market forces.

Although consumers have been given more choice, the flipside of digital is that businesses have also been given more choice – more choice to hone their audience, target their consumers and push them down a specific, pre-chosen path.

And, humans being humans, we all like to follow the herd. If we’re told enough times how amazing a particular product is, and if enough of our peer group start buying that product, we’ll eventually follow their lead and join the trend. And marketers love creating a trend and tempting in those early adopters. How many times have you heard that cliched line ‘Everyone’s talking about the new…’ as a tired way to make you part with your cash?

We like to fit in, we like to consume the same things as our peers and we like to go with the flow. And this desire to follow the trend puts us directly into the hands of the digital marketer.

So, is this homogenising of our choices forcing us down predefined routes? Almost certainly. Do most of us care? Probably not. For the majority of us, this is the trade-off for having digital in our lives.

Does a digital future look bright?

The fundamental thing to accept here is that the digital world is here. This isn’t a sci-fi view of the future. That view of society that we saw in ‘Bladerunner’ is here already – a world built on the foundation stone of technology combined with advertising.

So, we can’t turn back the clock any more than a Victorian could have un-invented the steam locomotive. Digital is here. And we have to make it work to our advantage; to make our lives easier, to create more choice (debatable as that choice is) and to bring benefits to our lives that we’d never have thought possible in previous decades.

So, the future is there to be written. We just have to bear in mind that technology only exist because humanity invents it – the former isn’t intended as a way of destroying the latter (we’re not in ‘Terminator’, after all).

Let’s just be wary of asking for too much. Let’s not become those impatient, spoilt consumers who want it all (and want it now). Let’s enjoy the incredible benefits that digital offers, but try to step back occasionally to consider just how incredible this all is.

Let’s embrace our digital world, but never lose our wonder at the fact it exists at all.


One thought on “Welcome to the digital world – Part 2: The illusion of choice

  1. I like this piece! It is so vital that we do not lose our sense of wonder and that we still continue to “think for ourselves” and not let ourselves be steered too often towards products and services just because someone in marketing says they are good or essential.

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