Digital Apostate — Part XI: Review Culture

Everyone loves their own opinions. Writers are quite possibility the worst offenders in that area. It was only a matter of time before the wild exchange of information occurring over the internet branched out into critique. We can’t help but judge things, thus making the phrase, “no judgement,” comically hollow. Whether or not you admit to it, you’re judging everything in your own mind and formulating your opinion about it – and here’s the kicker, that’s totally fine. You can’t help but assess things and figure out how you feel about them, it would be odd if you didn’t.

            And so, the internet, coupled with our propensity for opinion, lead to the likes of Yelp, an online business review platform whereby the users, the everyday citizens, are the critics. At the risk for sounding like I have little faith in humanity, I will tell you that most people are not qualified to give you their opinion because it is totally ill-conceived. The majority of Yelp reviews are based on personal taste and expectations – both of which restaurant owners have no way of knowing until they fail to meet them. Similarly, reviews based on one employee’s bad day are a cruel way to slam a business, which is owned at great expense by another human being, I remind you. 

            One person’s opinion of how their meal is supposed to taste can be entirely different from another person’s, and yet both of their Yelp reviews will indicate their dissatisfaction. You can’t please everyone, right? This would all be business as usual in pre-social media times. There are always going to be people who dislike what you’re doing/making, that’s life. However, Yelp reviews hold a certain amount of weight. Businesses are beholden to pleasing (or attempting to please) every customer under threat of snotty review. Yes, businesses should please their customers, but when doing so entails catering to their customer’s every picky or petty whim, they’re put in a precarious situation. 

            A bad review whereby the user details that the restaurant is filthy, the food was terrible, or that there were pest problems is worth reading. I wouldn’t want to go to a filthy restaurant with both shit food and rats. However, when any person with the capacity to type or dictate can deliver their subjective reviews for online publishing, the restaurants suffer. It bears mentioning that the life on an influencer is a confluence of many of the topics covered thus far. 

Influencers, absorbed in their own self-created hype, place too much stock in their own opinion, feeling that by sharing at people, they’re doing a service. So, when an influencer arrives at a restaurant or bar and announces their presence to the staff, the staff is supposed to cater to their every whim to please them. It’s truly a form of extortion that a person with an internet presence can get preferential treatment from a business that is threatened by bad reviews or bad social media coverage. It’s especially worth noting that to be an influencer, you need only deem yourself worthy of consumption, seeing a need where there is none.  

So, influencers and regular social media users alike are free to leave their opinions online as they please – opinions that directly affect the businesses and livelihood of other real people. Isn’t this wrong? Doesn’t anyone see that we’ve lost the plot? These business owners have invested thousands upon thousands of dollars into their business, only to have it shat upon by self-appointed Yelp critic. So many people are placing far too much stock in their own opinions – and why wouldn’t they? They live in their own fart chamber, and the air is fine. 

Published by Christopher Goodlof

Writer, Visual Artist, Musician

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