Weeds are Subjective

13th July 2021

Most people probably understand the concept of a weed - something that grows where you don’t want it to grow.

Well, maybe I’m odd for this, but this concept has been in my head for many years.

Mainly because of gardening reasons, but I also think my thinking can also be applied to more real-life scenarios. I’ll try to explain.

To start, here is the definition of a “weed” from the Cambridge Dictionary:

any wild plant that grows in an unwanted place, especially in a garden or field where it prevents the cultivated plants from growing freely

Seems simple enough. Things that appear where you don’t want them to appear.

Except throughout my life, I’ve noticed that here in the UK, “weeds” seem to be a fixed list of plants that people apparently don’t like on their lawn. So really they’re just native plants that sometimes spread relatively easy.

My problem is that the common meaning is seemingly a static list, rather than being subjective to the scenario. For example, in a small garden, you probably won’t want Japanese knotweed growing, as it’s an invasive species that can quickly overtake an area and is difficult to control.

However, I’ve never understood that dandelions, a small plant that produces yellow flowers, looks pretty nice, and is actually edible while also containing quite a few vitamins, is commonly classed as a weed. Whereas the daisy is exempt from the same criticism, even though it is too a small flowering plant that can appear in lawns and spreads relatively easily.

The only thing this has done for me is to further reaffirm my belief that weeds are subjective. But more importantly, that sometimes commonly held opinions (or definitions in this case) might not always apply to you.

For example, when reading a product review, whether it’s an app or a computer, it’s important to remember that a weed to them might not necessarily be a weed to you. So you need to take into consideration any biases that the reviewer might hold themselves, before applying their findings to your situation.

You could also apply to analogy to the common question of whether an iPad can replace your computer. Too many times, the fundamental parts of peoples arguments are what an iPad can do and what a “real computer” can do. And instead, the focus should be on three things:

  • What can an iPad do?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What weeds am I willing to deal with to use an iPad?

You can apply these three things to a lot of decisions, and make them a bit more generic:

  • What capabilities does X have?
  • What actions do I want to perform?
  • What am I willing to put up to perform Y on X?

Often it’s easy to see someone’s posts on social media and to try and apply their experiences and outcomes to your own life, but it’s important to remember subjectivity. And that their decisions could be based on beliefs that are different to your own, and that they may be willing to put up with a different level of “weeds” than you.

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