Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Weighing the Options: An Interactive Infographic

I've read that most people already know the outcome of a decision they have to make before going through the laborious process of agonizing over the options, making lists of pros and cons, discussing it over coffee with friends, or spending sleepless nights in supposed indecision. If you were to ask someone what they think they might decide, they would probably say the same thing at the beginning of the process as they do at the end. There is certainly some truth to this theory. I often have a feeling what my choice will be, but feel the need at least to give a nod to the import of the decision by taking my time about weighing the options. But in some cases, I can remember having a feeling what my answer would be, but then ending up in a very different place entirely. For me this process is rarely scientific or conscientious. It mostly consists of putting the issue on the back burner while I go about the rest of my life, and then stepping out of the shower one day to discover that I know what I need to do. Realizing this has been a big relief to me, as it means I don't have to put a huge amount of physical effort into the enterprise; my brain will do the calculations automatically without me having to will it to do so.

Certain decisions, however, seem too big for that back burner. What to do next with my life, for example. I actually find myself with too many options, too much of a blank canvas. I could choose to move anywhere, do anything, be with anyone. The sheer breadth of my options is paralyzing. So I decided to numericize it.

This is going to look a bit obsessive, but I did it mostly on a lark, just to see what the results would be. I have taken six cities where I could imagine living, and rated them based on a series of criteria that I think would influence my enjoyment of life there. This is obviously a very subjective exercise (analytical as I attempted to make it), so I'm sure anyone reading it would disagree with many of my evaluations. Furthermore, it's bound to be unfair, since the graph includes cities I've only visited for a week as well as places I've lived longer than anywhere else in my life. But I had to start somewhere. So here it is. Click on the checkboxes to turn on or off each city's graph, and mouse over different areas on the graph to see my comments.

In some ways the results are surprising. I certainly never expected San Diego to come in last, and Salt Lake City was never a huge contender in my mind, yet it shows up in third place. Portland and Denver coming out at the top doesn't surprise me, though. I must admit I did a little fudging, trying to influence the outcome to more accurately reflect the preferences I hoped it would. So does that mean I've already made up my mind? I guess we'll have to wait and find out. Maybe I'll go take a shower.