Everyone wants to believe that they are unique. We would like to have faith in knowing that our vision is one of a kind. Although it might be shared with others, there is some inherent magic on loan from the gods that brings us to our conclusions and aides us in our decision making. But that is a farce. The oracle bones of ancient civilizations have been replaced by one thing, the customer review.
When faced with all the options we have at our fingertips (which extends in infinite waves for some people but mainly relates to Netflix and Amazon Prime candidates in our house)we allow ourselves the indulgence of picking only the best suited option for our demonstrably refined palates. Clearly, my time is very valuable, I cannot be expected to while away 35 hours on a now defunct television series that was cancelled and therefore improperly wrapped up. I have real concerns, like who started the seventh fight of the morning over the two karaoke machines we have (true story, both identical, and yet they fight).
My husband is awe-inspiring in this arena. His discipline in researching a product would put most to shame. Not only will he read the reviews, he will read the responses to the reviews and the rebuttals to those as well. He will supplement his findings with you-tube videos to both support and annihilate his position on whatever he is after. You may call this playing devil’s advocate, but his flexibility in hearing the other side leads to enhanced learning, it’s amazing and ultimately beneficial to be well versed on both sides. It’s also the complete opposite my methodology.
Take Netflix for example. There are movies on there that have left me heartbroken, dehydrated from crying and almost catatonic from misery; in other words, movies that I absolutely loved. Some of these films have garnered two stars. Sometimes they have received three. My husband could attempt to explain this by saying “you have generally terrible taste in movies” or “garmpfh” which is the sound he makes when he has fallen into a very deep sleep because he works incredibly hard and doesn’t have it in him to stay awake and participate in a film that is subtitled and set up as a series of flashbacks for eleven characters. He is a purist, and if Balderdash has taught us anything it is that a synopsis can easily be made up to include random words that have little to do with the actual plot of things. Therefore he relies heavily on the stars or reviews associated with each movie. If we haven’t seen the movie (which seems unlikely as we fly through the titles, “Saw it, saw it, and saw it in theaters when I was thirteen”) he settles not on the cover or title but on the stars. Four are a minimum; he won’t be stopping for less than that. I look at the title and commit the next two hours of my life to it.
This works for books too. On Goodreads, we can dismiss thousands of titles by seeing what people who liked other things we liked sort of like. It’s not enough for us to read our favorite author; we need to know what we should read first, and what we should have queued up after that. This is something I can support and understand even more than the Netflix conundrum. Because to read a book you must either pay for it, parting with hard earned cash each time (whereas Netflix is conveniently a small bit once a month)or log into your library account (I would recommend never changing your given pin so that each time you login you have a strange group of numbers that mean nothing to you to try and remember – Fun!)and get in line for the title, waiting days or weeks and anticipating the book.
You can rate your dining experience, your travel accommodations and your blow dry service. For the record, I ate nachos standing up tonight for dinner, I drove with two kids in the car to two farmer’s markets in town today and I haven’t washed my hair yet – so maybe I have averaged one half of a star for the entire day if I was giving them out. All those stars and points and likes slowly morph into the brand that your “lifestyle” endorses. The flaw is the creepers like me, who appreciated a book, or felt gutted after the movie, or stared in wide-eyed wonder at the Chihuly installation staged within a ceiling and remained speechless, clung desperately to the experience and allowed it to silently wreck them. It’s seen as lazy to simply say “Go there. Stand under it, see it for yourself”.
I thought it was ironic that five stars signals something – it stirs the dust up a bit before it settles exactly where it was before. That was, I felt that way until my sage husband pointed out exactly why it works so well. Some of the people who take the time to do the reviews care so much and feel strongly about the product that they have to share it with other people – or they have to warn people against wasting their time, he said. Not unlike a book club or talking about a movie with a friend – except that it’s a wider net of more diverse people who have come to a similar conclusion. That mention made me feel like there were these collective people out their dedicating their time to watching out for me. Yes, of course I know that people can pitch a product or service as a favor or because they have been sponsored to do so. But I like my interpretation better and I am looking for at least four stars worth of agreement on this one. Also, here is the Farmer’s market haul, which I just might write a review for – it was too good not to share.