Disgruntlement and maliciousness through the ages: from rotten vegetables to rotten reviews…
I’m a firm believer in ‘if you haven’t got anything nice to say, shut it.’ Reviews should be helpful and truthful. Constructive, well-intentioned feedback is the way to go. Regrettably, there are way too many self-aggrandizing, inaccurate, bilious rants online.
Online reviews and ratings influence most of us. They impact our purchasing decisions and as they have a wider reach than print – ‘yesterday’s chip paper’ or word of mouth, they appear to have caused a behavioural shift of epic proportions. I had to grudgingly admit that my behaviour had changed. It was time for me to face up to the troubling fact that whilst I have a mind of my own, I let others make it up for me. These others are a mix of well-balanced and off-kilter strangers who have an impact on the books I read and the films I see. It extends to the accommodation I end up staying in and the restaurants I go to (sometimes). I have become a snob methinks, not wanting anything with a rating below four stars, or under 8 out of 10. This needs addressing, stern note to self.
Before the prevalence of the virtual world I would read a book if the fly cover took my fancy, or if someone recommended it. I’d go and eat somewhere if I liked the look of the menu. I’d stay anywhere that was in the right location and price. This led to some great times and experiences and some abysmal ones, but my decisions were not governed by someone who gets out of bed on the wrong side wielding an axe that they have to grind. What’s worse a wayward machine may have posted the reviews, programmed by recalcitrant humans to spread misery at scale. They are indeed raging machines.
What about the harm caused?
Malicious reviews burst bubbles…
People have been venting opinions for centuries. The act of throwing rotting vegetables originated in the first century AD and became a thing in the Victorian era. Tomato stains may be difficult to remove but a malicious review cannot be erased (easily or at all in some cases). It is likely to exist in cyberspace forever. Whatever the method used throughout the ages, hostility hurts and derisive reviews are damaging.
It can ruin a person’s exciting new, bold path in life, one that they have strived for. A miffed customer left some scathing comments about a non-fiction novel written by an acquaintance. The reason was not down to content but the way her book was displayed online (not the author’s fault by the way). At that point she hadn’t sold a single copy of her wonderful book, online or printed. Similarly, a friend had an excellent B&B in Devon and suffered a downturn in bookings after a review was posted that contained inaccurate comments and one blatant lie. The sites that hosted the reviews refused to take them down. The upshot is that the producer of the work or the business owner seems to have little or no control or say in this process.
At Collab Writers we want to provide a nurturing space for creative people to connect and collaborate.
So what do you think as a writer, film maker, musician or artist about ratings and reviews?
Can anything be done to influence the detrimental digital influencers? We’d love to hear your ideas.
Anjali Alford, Co-Founder, Collab Writers
Collab Writers Networking at the Library
Come and meet fellow writers, filmmakers and other creatives in one of the coolest private members clubs: The Library – situated in the heart of London’s Theatreland. This event is free for Founder Members. Guests just £10.00 Thursday August 1st 19:00 – 21:00