Curator Overload

You’re missing out.

I don’t know *what* you’re missing out on, incidentally. It’s just that with so much going on from so many sources of information and culture and news and food and social events and more, you’re absolutely missing out on something. We feel it in our Twitter feeds and Facebook events. We feel it while channel surfing or wondering what other turns our lives could have taken. It’s FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, and the only cure is YOLO, You Only Live Once. Right?

No.

Let me tell you a story.

I listen to National Public Radio. My drive time with NPR is the one place in my life where I can escape the pressures of choice and cultivation. I can relax and let my mind wander to imagine solutions for personal and work “opportunities” or just give thanks for all that I have in my life.

Morning Edition (going to work) or All Things Considered (coming home) are programs that put a series of news stories into my car that I cannot choose. Often, something about science or Slovakian politics or Keynesian economics comes on, and my gut reaction is “I’m not going to care about this. Maybe I should switch.”

But I don’t. Call it laziness, call it habit . . . but at this point, it’s because I have learned that even if I think it won’t be relevant to me, I always end up learning something that changes the way I think. I walk away armed with new information, new perspectives. The content I instinctively would have passed on provides richness and depth beyond my personal life experiences.

This does not happen at home. I do not tune into PBS. I do not watch documentaries about sports or music and learn unexpected truths about my fellow man. Instead, I’m a DVR junkie. It’s a different form of “me” time. I am the curator, I choose the programs, and if it doesn’t grab me (sorry, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) it’s dead to me.

Twitter is a firehose of information, only a tiny piece of which reaches me. At first, I didn’t understand it, like the first time Neo looked at the Matrix: all he saw was green code. But the more I looked, the more I saw the fundamental flow of information behind it and learned to make it work for me. There’s still a part of me that wonders what feed I’m missing, what information I need.

This doesn’t happen with NPR. Even when I’m traveling and miss days at a time, I don’t feel a need to hunt down podcasts and catch up. I am at peace with the idea that what I hear is what I need. I trust it implicitly.

All of which, perhaps, explains why I reacted poorly to a recent sales pitch from Sirius. They kept pressing me on all the amazing news options they had available, customizable and complete, and I realized what I value about NPR. I’m not a news junkie. I’m a local NPR junkie. The last thing I want to do is start wasting precious drive time seeking new channels, curating the news to what I think I want.

This is the power of brands. When we can trust that what they give us, that’s what we need. And what the others offer just doesn’t matter. When we trust a brand, we know that sooner or later, we’ll be taken care of. You’ll never be missing out, because you’ll always be opting in.

In a world of infinite choices, what we need are guideposts and pathways. What are yours?

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