Take the safe option: it’s time to ditch edgy fads

Has there ever been a more underrated word in the English language than “safe”? For something that is fundamentally a good thing, people can be weirdly dismissive about it. Eyes are rolled at workplace health and safety as though it’s somehow uncool to not lose a hand to poorly maintained machinery. Romcoms lazily wield it as an unflattering cliche: “Oh, I don’t know. My award-winning humanitarian of a partner is perfect in every conceivable way – but they’re just so … safe, you know?”

Meanwhile, there’s no bigger cliche than being edgy just for the sake of trend-chasing. Over the past two decades, the fad for extreme sports has reached (and plummeted from) ever-crazier heights. Our fetishisation of high-risk, high-wire living has even spread to dining, with foodies flocking to increasingly ridiculous eateries simply because they look cool on social media. How many times have our friends told us they tried out a Hot New Place that wasn’t actually very good – while we pity their gullibility and coo soothing words such as: “Oh what a shame that insect-based menu wasn’t actually that delicious.”

Illustration of crash test dummy walking on tightrope

Spurred on by the peer pressure of social media and clickbait articles about patently daft new trends, people all too often act as if they’re playing a gigantic game of chicken. When they aren’t posting smiling holiday selfies from the post-nuclear wreckage of Chernobyl, they’re braving the latest Insta grooming trends that you just have to try – even if they leave you looking like you’ve had your eyebrows rubber stamped on to your face.

The 21st century seems so unhinged, it feels as though it’s drastically in need of a friend to confiscate its phone and force-feed it a sensible mug of Horlicks. So as we enter a new decade, it’s time to wake up to the obvious truth that sometimes playing it safe might be the smarter option. Sure, it won’t necessarily make for great social media content or keep trend forecasters in business, but the tried and tested route at least offers proven enjoyment.

Because life is just too short to put up with rubbish stuff – and, let’s face it, 90% of everything is fairly rubbish. Most songs, most films, most attempts at sitcoms – they’re pretty far from brilliant. There’s a reason that, during the first quarter of 2019, UK media regulator Ofcom found that the most streamed TV programme was reruns of the 1990s sitcom Friends. Few things are worse than finding yourself four hours into yet another overhyped 12-part series, too deep to give up, but pining for the simpler life you led before it was besmirched by a dozen hours of televisual dross.

But there are things out there that are just unfailingly brilliant – melted cheese, beaten-track holidays, every Bill Murray film ever made. These are just some of the reasons that “safe” should be something we embrace. Another is the obvious fact that safety keeps you, well, safe. Just consider all the revolutionary advances in car safety technology.

The safe option is one that doesn’t lead to you royally screwing up. It’s a guaranteed good time. It’s not being afraid to use your critical faculties, shun desperate fads and to do something that you genuinely know to be great. It’s suiting yourself, no matter the pressure to do the same stuff that everyone else is talking about.

It isn’t always easy. But increasingly, playing it safe is the boldest thing you can do.

Low-risk living

We’re under so much pressure to be edgy these days that we often overlook safer, more rewarding options. Here are some user-friendly safety tips to help you navigate modern life

Illustration of crash test dummy watching TV accompanied by dog

Binge-watching TV
We might be living through an extended golden age of television, but the explosion in edgy programming has also given us an awful lot of duds. So it can be all too easy to make a habit out of wasting 12 hours of your life. Protect yourself from another bad long-term relationship with a TV show by learning when to quit. Studios like to make a big splash on their opening, so if the first episode sucks, it isn’t going to get better from there on in. But what happens when you’re, say, four episodes in? One way to develop the discipline to quickly give up is to think of your time as an economic investment. Just because you’ve invested four hours, it makes no sense to invest more if there’s no likely payoff. Economists call this the “sunk cost fallacy”. Instead, focus on the future time you’ll gain rather than on the time you’ve already sunk.

Illustration of crash test dummy hiking up steep hill

The beaten track
It’s easy to have that once-in-a-lifetime holiday: go somewhere you’ll never, ever want to visit again. Plenty of people willingly do this in the name of adventure or to prove their alpha credentials. But there is much to be said for the relaxing and restorative joy of the safe, well-trodden path – such as comfortable beds, rainproof roofs and nice food. The trick to taking your first step back to the beaten track is to refrain from judging other people for choosing the tourist trail and package holidays – then hopefully you’ll stop judging yourself.

Foodie warning
Social media and TV cookery shows have conspired to make food even more of a feast for our eyes than our taste buds. But trying to assess food’s deliciousness with your eyes is like trying to appreciate music with your mouth. It’s important to take food-based Instagram posts with a pinch of (figurative) salt, as some restaurants try to capitalise on these trends by creating dishes based around how they’ll look on social media. Avoid regrets by engaging in real conversation: if you see friends posting about having eaten somewhere that looks great, get in touch to check they actually rated the taste of the meal. Just because someone shares a pretty photo, it doesn’t make it a food recommendation.

Before you startup, stop
The digital revolution has fuelled such a fixation with startups that it almost feels de rigueur to quit your job and start your own venture. Alternatively, you might be tempted to devote yourself full-time to your side hustle. Before you consider whether or not to take the plunge, one question you should ask yourself is whether the thing that you’re really fetishising is the idea of being a risk-taker rather than the venture itself. So be sure to scrutinise your real motivations. For instance, are you following your passion or your ego? And bear in mind that sometimes our egos are actually fuelled by feelings of insecurity.

Savvy tech is safe tech
Each month brings a cacophony of new digital bells and whistles and it can be easy to simply dismiss them. So how do you sift useful tech from pointless tech? One tip is to ask whether or not the new app, gadget or feature will save you time, give you pleasure or make you safer. The latter question often gets overlooked. But when it comes to developments such as smart homes and in-car technology – including driver monitoring and assistance systems – making things safer is actually the main point.

Safety matters
Your world matters to us. It’s why we build every Subaru with you in mind, offering the very best protection for you and your family with our award-winning safety credentials. See what sets Subaru apart at subaru.co.uk

The Guardian

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