How to Make Better Decisions(What Should I Do? – Part 2)

Last time I went on and on about how the mass media, peer groups, and childhood experiences lead us to making bad decisions. These bad decisions are bad for individuals and they add up to real problems for society.

If I sometimes drive my car like I am in Formula 1, this is really a personal problem and not a social problem. If everyone who owns a hot car starts to drive like a race car driver then we have a social problem! Preventing that sort of building up from personal decision to social problem is what I’m going to offer a few ideas about this time.

So, lets take these influences on our decisions one-by-one:

1. Mass Media – Maybe some old advice is really best here: Read fewer men’s/women’s magazines, watch less television (or at least stick with news, and serious documentaries – the life of Ann Nicole Smith does not count as a serious documentary subject by the way!). Boycott companies that sponsor trash television shows.

What is trash television anyway? Well, almost all television is trash television to some people. I feel the need to be a little more precise than that. Trash television to me is television that promotes unhealthy body images (for men and women), unrealistic ideas about success, unrealistic expectations for relationships, and unrealistic standards regarding what people should own. Hmm, maybe most television is trash.

2. Peer Pressure – Once again, the old advice is best: Pick your friends carefully! Pick your kid’s friends even more carefully. Some people say that you cannot pick your friends, but this is obviously not true! We have some control over who we develop or end relationships with and when. This is what it means to pick your friends.

3. Generalized Other – our ideas about how others will react to our behavior comes from friends, family, coworkers, religious leaders (even if you are not religious) and the mass media. Aside from being careful about what you read or watch and picking your friends carefully, there is probably nothing you can do.

4. Childhood Experiences – Well, if you are old enough to reflect on your childhood experiences then it is too late for you! However, you can still try to protect your kids from trash television and bad kids in the neighborhood.

However, the more people follow the advice to avoid "trash" television (and books and magazines and radio shows) the more likely culture will change to produce a "generalized other" that is more supportive of making healthy, for the individual, decisions.

Maybe I need to say more about this next time.

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~ by chetdavis on September 30, 2006.

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