Sunday, March 6, 2011

Drop-Down Menus

Drop-down menus are terrible. You understand what I’m referring to—the arrow-initiated list of options that appears when you’re filling information in online, on anything from goofy personality quizzes to serious job applications. They’re abysmal, and this is why.

Life isn’t multiple choice. Okay, yes, technically I suppose you could qualify it that way; but what I’m getting at is there isn’t a finite range of options available to you in describing yourself either concretely or abstractly. I thought it was bad enough when the license bureau forced you to select a single color for your hair or your eyes. Now every characteristic you could possibly have is rapidly being only definable through drop-down menus. Sure, a few of them may be accurate. But no amount of pre-determined options could possibly be enough to cover the spread of uniqueness in the world.

People need to be able to define themselves abstractly and specifically. Instead of just putting “brown” for hair color, wouldn’t it be more accurate for me to say “a transitional light brown, with fleeting shades of blond.” Or instead of saying “no degree,” saying “in the final two weeks of my four-year college education.” Everything is becoming oversimplified and overcompartmentalized—it’s a way of both limiting the way you can describe yourself and segregating people into classes. It’s as if more and more, the common belief is that people can be arithmetically sorted into groups.

While there are advantages to this kind of sorting, and accuracy within drop-down menus as a whole, I think it’s a dangerous direction for us to head in as a society. It’s probably a little fatalistic to think that this could lead to further rigid classifications in real life, but we have to imagine it as a possibility. The day may come when we all have numbers instead of names.

1 comment:

  1. It does help a lot with filtering the data and/or sorting it, that kind of stuff.
    However, it does reduce your ability to show how unique you are, like you said.