Please rate your experience…at life.
Please rate your experience…
…at the doctor’s office
…at the restaurant
It seems everyone, everywhere requires my experience rating these days. We’re groomed for it. Amazon: Please review your recent purchase! (And don’t even get me started on what this means to authors. It’s shit, that’s what it is. Shit that Amazon created and now believes is fact. Their data guy even tried to explain this to us at a recent conference…completely unaware that the conditions he was describing were entirely artificially created BY AMAZON. But I digress…) Facebook: Like this post! (So we can determine who is relevant and who isn’t.) Google: We’ve prioritized your inbox for you! (Please stop. STOP. I can read my own damn mail in the order it is received, that you very little.)
And since we’re now groomed to think in terms of rating, ranking, and algorithm’s thinking for us (thank goodness! Thinking for myself is so damn hard!) Everyone else has seemingly jumped on the bandwagon.
It was in the middle of emails and actual paper mail (in my mailbox!) asking me to rate our recent ER visit, doctor’s visit, and an Amazon purchase (note: Amazon can allow sellers to send me multiple emails asking to review my purchase but AUTHORS can’t even ask on social media for a review without being punished by the Zon. Yes, I’m bitter about the double standards) that it hit me:
OUR LIVES ARE NOW REVIEW BASED.
And that’s…shitty. We’re training ourselves to only care about what others think. Instead of, you know, what we think. We’re training ourselves to not think at all, but to base our decisions and actions on the rating and review received. We’re training ourselves to modify our behavior based on these ratings instead of modifying our behavior based on observation, analysis, and instinct. Or, morals. Morals got nuthin’ on Sue’s opinions. (Sue: I just think it’s not right for ABCDEFG or HIJKLMNOP. That’s what I think.)
Why does anyone care what Sue thinks? And why isn’t Sue using facts instead of opinions to share her point of view?
Oh that’s right, because of that pesky rating thing again. See, when Amazon, the ER, and Facebook ask for your rating (or Liking or whatever) they’re asking for your opinion. Your thoughts. They don’t want facts. They don’t want research. They definitely don’t want peer-reviewed research or double blind trials or anything else that presents them with actual data.
No, what they want is your gut reaction. Your feelings.
And the thing about gut reactions and feelings (while they are important) is that they are reactionary and rarely well thought out. They aren’t reasoned and they certainly don’t consider the bigger picture.
In the moment, all you can see, think, feel is your experience. When we “hide behind our keyboards” we don’t have to consider anyone but ourselves. We’ve sliced out the bigger picture and put all our emphasis on the individual. In some ways that sounds really nice. (Women, in particular, are trained to never put themselves first.) But in actual practice (especially when a practice has become as widespread as this) it is destructive.
It’s destructive because we’re taking the humanity out of interactions. We’re taking reasoning away from decision making. We’re taking away the entire process of considering experiences in a three dimensional way.
And here’s where this shift in thinking is really starting to hit us hard: the workplace.
That doctor’s office request for review? They want me to tell the corporation how my doctor did. They need data they can measure and point to instead of interacting with their employees. That is partly because they’re too big, partly because they’re structured to be a machine.
When we train ourselves to care what others think more than we train ourselves to reason on our own, we stop building good leaders. How many good bosses have you had? One? Two? How many bad? I’m guessing most of your bosses were pretty bad. Guess what? That’s only going to get worse. To be a good leader you have to be able to interact with people, consider their needs and the needs of the job. You have to be able to analyze what’s working (not look at recent customer service ratings and base all your decisions on Sue’s opinion. Sue’s opinion sucks!) and how you can improve. You have to be able to think for yourself.
Not what Facebook thinks is relevant. Not what Google prioritizes into your inbox. Not what Sue thinks.
You can’t care if it will upset Sue. Sue’s opinion doesn’t matter. Facts matter. People matter (ALL the people, not just Sue.) And you can’t figure out how to be effective if you can’t think.
It’s even infected higher education (and we all know it’s already completely poisoned all other forms of education.) Students rate their professors. I can’t tell you how fucked up this is. For one, a lot of really amazing professors are also the most hated. For two, students don’t know what students need. They’re there to learn. One of the coolest things about going to college is that the rules fade away. Some professors teach rigidly to tests while others bring pizza and soda to class and just talk. Some take you out on campus adventures while others drone on and on and on behind presentations.
Sometimes you sleep through a class and sometimes you absorb so much it never stops your brain from thinking, even decades later.
But now professors have to care about what rating they receive at the end of the semester. And that’s changing who teaches and what they teach. How they teach it. It’s systematically removing creativity and innovation from the very place we need it most.
That’s on the colleges. Because again they’re too big and too focused on making money to care about genuine quality. All that matters is the ratings they get to boast and the data they can point to.
And then there’s our kids. A generation being raised on reviews. Being trained to care who likes their latest post and to modify their behavior based on the latest experience review. (If you liked this video please give it a thumb’s up and leave a comment! Because we must feed the algorithm beast! It is hungry!) Being trained that their gut-reaction opinion of something is terribly important.
You know how people keep saying things like “Just let the kids play! Send ’em outside!” We should do that. We should all do that. Just play. Just work. Just THINK FOR YOURSELF.
Just call me Sue for the day (I certainly earned it with this dumpster fire of thoughts.)
***If you like reading my books please go to Amazon and leave a review! Apparently my entirely livelihood depends on what you think so Amazon can determine whether my book is worthy of showing up in rankings. It also determines my worthiness to be allowed to pay advertisers to show my book to new readers. Fucked up, right? But again, reviews are important. SO IMPORTANT. So, you know, if you have in fact read my books, did in fact like them, and have not previously left a review saying they were (or were not) a good purchase, you could make YOUR OPINION KNOWN. I’d certainly appreciate it, because while I think the rating and review culture is bad, I have to live in it! And honestly, I really do care if you enjoyed your reading experience. I want you to tell others about it. I just don’t like that we’re chained to it in order to make enough money to live…all because a computer gets to determine whether books are good based on reviews.