This May Be One of the Most Important Things Missing in Your Life


Raise your hand if this sounds familiar. You and your honey decide to spend the evening watching a Netflix movie. But then you spend forever browsing through selections and trailers, and now it’s time for bed.

According to the author Pete Davis, you fell victim to “Infinite Browsing.” We are so attached to the idea of keeping our options open that we never commit to anything.

Davis’s book, “Dedicated: The Case For Commitment In An Age Of Infinite Browsing,” invites readers to join the “counter-culture of commitment” rather than forever keeping their options open.

The problem with options is that they delay commitment. Despite the apparent “connectedness” of the Internet, we are a society increasingly disconnected and commitment averse. We have a “sharing” economy where no commitment is required.

Instead of getting to know your local restaurant owner and servers, you can have your meals delivered to your house. And now there are “ghost” restaurants designed solely for delivery.

Sure, some ghost restaurants popped up in response to the COVID pandemic, but they’re likely going to stay.

We develop low-key online “relationships” from behind our computer screens instead of committing to real, in-person relationships that require effort, accountability, and commitment.

We can’t keep up with it

What about those “laptop warriors” traveling around the world, blogging about their freedom and lack of commitments. I’m sure they mean well, but what are they building? What is their legacy? What roots have they planted?

We are a society addicted to novelty, but novelty gives way to diminishing returns. How many of the latest video games can you play before the novelty wanes and you ask yourself where you’re headed in life?

We chase novelty at the expense of depth. And depth most often comes from commitment, and a sustained effort to build something of true value.

The novelty business is astounding. We can’t keep up with it. — William Hanna

Things of true value don’t usually happen over night. They take commitment and years of hard work to bear fruit. But the rewards can be tremendous.

People remember the big moments in Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. For example, his letter from a Birmingham Jail, and his famous 1963 I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

What people don’t remember is Martin Luther King Jr.’s less exciting backstory. As Pete Davis describes in his book:

We remember Martin Luther King Jr. for his cinematic dragon-slaying-his iconic speeches and confrontations-but what’s lost is all the long-haul work that queued up those moments. King makes clear in Stride Toward Freedom, his memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott, just how much time he spent in the mundane work of winning the community’s trust, joining local organizations, weaving together coalitions through multiple meetings, and planning efficient public gatherings.

It seems harder than ever for people today to commit to a place, cause, community, or even another person, for the long haul. We want to keep our options open, and in so doing, we deny ourselves something of vast importance.

In fact, this may be one of the most important things missing in our lives today. What is it?


Increasingly today, private lives have grown and public lives have shrunk. We talk to our neighbors less, resist joining clubs or organizations, and focus on keeping our options open instead of committing to something.

The question is, where is the meaning in keeping our options open? What will we eventually build? What purpose will we attach our lives to?

Go throw your TV set away

Years ago, I read Robert D. Putnam’s book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” His book chronicled the decline in church attendance, PTA membership, bowling leagues, and memberships in numerous other clubs.

Putnam pointed to many factors, such as generational change, urban sprawl (longer commutes), larger classrooms, and especially television.

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

Then fill the shelves with lots of books.

— Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

TV encouraged lethargy and passivity. People began watching more sports than playing sports. TV meant fewer kids playing outside after school, and fewer neighbors visiting on their porches.

Cartoon by John P. Weiss

It’s not that TV and social media are evil. Sometimes it’s healthy to relax and escape into a great movie or video. But increasingly, TV and social media have become the default forms of entertainment at the expense of real social interaction.

Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities, and commercials. — Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Everyone today seems to be glued to their screens, absorbed by addictive social media algorithms. Is this where we expect to find meaning and purpose?

Could this be why we’re seeing higher levels of teen and adult suicides? Could this be why so many people are miserable and adrift in their lives?

The fear of closing doors

It makes sense early in life to keep your options open. Especially when you’re growing up, discovering your talents, interests, etc. But sooner or later you have to make some decisions. Like what kind of career you want to pursue.

Much of education today is about preparation for advancement. Yes, universities offer students plenty of clubs, activities, and subcultures to attach themselves to. But the overarching theme seems to be more about careerism and advancement than professionalism and craftsmanship.

As Pete Davis notes in his book:

Clubs pitch themselves as resume lines and career offices guide you toward whatever will make you the most marketable. Students who take them up on the offer are often accused of chasing prestige and feeding their ego. But in my experience, what ladder climbers are doing has less to do with prestige and ego (money) and more to do with fear — the fear of closing doors. Attaining prestige, they think, is the best way to avoid losing options.

What if universities spent more time fostering professionalism instead of careerism? Pete Davis notes: “To be a professional is not some individual designation. It means something to join a profession. Once we are initiated into a profession, we ‘profess’ — declare publicly — that we intend to perform our craft to the highest standard.”

Professions serve society. They have codes of conduct, traditions, initiations, etc. Pete Davis writes: “At their best, professions do not just exist to serve their practitioners — they ask their practitioners to commit to serving the profession’s public mission. In exchange, they orient and give meaning to their practitioner’s lives. They place you in a larger story.”

What do I owe to my times?

What do we owe to the dead, the living, and those yet to be born? It’s easy to forget the millions who came before us. The ones who struggled, fought, sacrificed, and created the order and systems of today’s society.

It’s also easy to lose sight of our neighbors as we focus exclusively on our own needs, advancements, careers, and open options.

What do I owe to my times, to my country, to my neighbors, to my friends? Such are the questions which a virtuous man ought often to ask himself. — Johann Kaspar Lavater

And what about our obligations to the unborn? Those who will inherit whatever we contribute, or fail to contribute.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all linked together on this earth. Individual actions have ripples seen and unseen. If we get sucked into “infinite browsing mode” and forever keep our options open, we’ll miss out on committing to something greater than ourselves.

Humanity is our ultimate community

I often think of the police chief who hired me as a rookie police officer back in 1989. That police chief spent his entire, long career in the same police department. He was totally committed to his city.

Even when he retired, he remained active in his community. He volunteers at his church and community events, mentors others, and has created a legacy of commitment, service, and professionalism.

Through his dedication and commitments, he has nurtured and sustained the local values and morals of his community. In this way, he honors those who contributed before him, those in his midst, and those who will follow him.

A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role. — Yehuda Berg

You can do the same. Steer clear of infinite browsing in your life. Seek a good education or training that can lead to becoming a professional of some kind. And then, commit to a place, cause, community, or person for the long haul.

Do this, and you will find meaning and purpose in your life.

Before you go

I’m John P. Weiss. I draw cartoons, paint, and write about life lessons. To follow along, sign up for my popular Saturday Newsletter here.

This post was previously published on Medium.


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Artworks by John P. Weiss


The post This May Be One of the Most Important Things Missing in Your Life appeared first on The Good Men Project.