There is a digital paradox and society hasn’t found a way to overcome it yet. On one hand, there is a tyranny of choice and on the other, a fear of missing out. Both phenomena work together in a vicious cycle.
With access to everything, the internet has made people subject to decision fatigue because of a tyranny of choice. Whether it’s shopping or information, when everything is available, it wears us out. The quality of our decision making suffers the more decisions we have to make.
People use filters in order to combat a tyranny of choice. Filters help reduce complexity: stores curate what we buy; newspapers choose the news. The internet has given us the power to choose our own filters, or follow someone else's filters, to get to customized results—a novum that in theory should be a powerful tool to pursue individual experiences.
The reality is, it’s not. The three filters most prominently displayed and most commonly used on hotel booking platform Trivago are the rather unhelpful beach, pool, and wifi. We’ve found similar on other travel websites. Such filters can not be a gateway to authenticity since they reduce the picture of the world in a non-useful way. They make it easy for users to go with the flow, but this oversimplification has its price.
It leaves users with a constant case of FOMO, a fear of missing out in a digital world of infinite access. We open another tab on our browser to search for more options because we know there’s probably a better deal out there, or a travel-solution that better fits our individual needs. Only, this leaves us with even more choices, and a greater need for filters.
One way to break out of this dilemma is to completely outsource this problem to technology that users trust enough to make decisions on their behalf. It’s the idea of reduced complexity in life through anticipatory design—products and services that will be smart enough to anticipate our needs before we communicate them, then make and execute decisions for us.