As I walked past the young lady who was inebriated and angry, berating the manager for whatever I had missed before that point, I got to bask in the indignant vitriol of someone with an obviously out-sized sense of importance.
“You’d better check your social media reviews tomorrow. I’m really influential on social media. I have a lot of followers!” tumbled out of her rage hole. Her equally indignant friend, still seated at the table, grabbed her purse and glared while uttering, “Yeah.”
I have no idea what spurred this confrontation. I am legitimately curious what did.
All I know for certain, aside from the exchange quoted as I walked by the outdoor seating area, is the body language and tone of the people.
The manager was resigned. The shoulders were slouched and I saw the tired body of someone who’d worked a long shift and was a touch deflated. The body language of the self-proclaimed social media “influencer” was aggressive. Face twisted in anger, drink still in hand as she moved to leave.
I Don’t Know
I have no idea why this conflict was happening. I didn’t talk to either of them. For all I know, that manager was a terrible person who said a terrible thing and deserved to be treated as some sort of modern-day servant who’d displeased his noble lady. That social media “influencer” may also have been completely bent out of shape for no good reason, emotional reactions magnified by a high blood alcohol percentage.
That’s the point, though, isn’t it? I don’t know.
When she writes her notes on Yelp, Facebook, or Twitter, or wherever else she vents her spleen, no one else will either. That manager, and the entire establishment, will be hammered. The only point of view many readers will have any hope of receiving, is hers.
I don’t even know what she was hoping to achieve with the threat. What a childish tantrum if the only outcome sought was that management would change course and bend to her whim.
If the place/service/person is awful enough to “torch” online, you cannot expect to have a fruitful outcome. If the person is awful only because they wouldn’t cater to your every outrage, then they weren’t that awful.
This is not a new situation, relatively speaking. Word of mouth carried far, even before the days of social media. People would use it as a bludgeon when they wanted. This is the social media extension of shouting the old pretentious bluff, “Don’t you know who I am?”
I Don’t Know Who You Are
Of course, as much as I laughed internally at the threat of “bad social media reviews,” I realized what a twisted magnification they have. Dissatisfied word of mouth was localized in the past. Dissatisfaction is now global, no matter how small the affair. We’ve seen everything from minor jokes costing people jobs, to enraged mobs of fans dog-piling on chosen enemies.
Back to the point at hand, none of us ever seem to think about how people have weaponized business reviews. As I reflected on this exchange, I really thought about how these reviews are just as much a toxic dumping ground as anything else. Yet they’re taken as verified truth.
I’m not criticizing the concept of “virtual friendships,” either. There are people with whom I’ve interacted, whom I’ve never met in person. I have seen most of them through the wonders of camera technology over the internet, and we’ve at least learned each other’s body language and facial tells, tones of voice, and other marvelous things of the natural world.
There are other people with whom I’ve had open and frank conversations initially facilitated by social media. I’ve only ever seen the text they’ve written. Those conversations grew and are fruitful to the point that I feel a friendship with them. It could bee misplaced, but this is more personal than taking the “verified” mark on Twitter, or Instagram, or wherever else, and trusting it as the Honest Truth.
Everyone has their own point of view, as Obi-Wan might suggest, and the truth they’re presenting on Yelp, or anywhere else, is colored by it. Perhaps they had a great, quiet weekend with their family. Maybe they just found out they’d lost their job. Maybe they were just in a bad place mentally.
To flip it to the “positive” side of the reviews world, remember that there are people working to snowball you there. “Influencers” give exposure and reviews in exchange for benefits. We all know about the Fyre Festival. Look at the mechanics of why that got so much exposure.
Billy McFarland simply knew how to leverage it all. Of course, hungry dogs aren’t terribly loyal, and the rest of that story is fascinating on its own.
Witnessing this sidewalk seating meltdown while on a self-imposed social media exile, as I am wont to do during Lent or other times when the mood so strikes, felt like a justification for my modern-day digital hermitage. It reinforced that perhaps it’s for the best to make it longer-lasting.
I mean, I still blog right now. I’d think that’s pretty obvious. I’m still on letterboxd and GoodReads, but those are much more a passive, focused exercise like message boards. I can leave a review for something, but there’s something that neuters the impact of them.
In the era of AI content generation to “juice” your SEO scores, a lot of online content is becoming meaningless anyway. People have lost their ability to read closely and discern. I find it fascinating that it’s never been applied to book or movie reviews, at least so far as I’m aware.
I wonder if it’s possibly that we assign so much extra weight to restaurant and hotel reviews, and things like them, as compared to a book or a film/movie review. I wonder if it’s that there’s something we hold sacred when it comes to judging art. I wonder if it’s only a matter of time until someone who thinks “double guns” are a cool way to say hi to someone figures out they can drive traffic to their [insert thing here] by using “AI content” on movie review sites.
What I Hope They Remember
As these angry influencers near their end, I wonder if they will realize that no one will care about your social media feed when you’re gone. Even the people that say they do, will only care because that piece of distraction from their own inanity will now require a modicum of effort to replace in their overstimulated lives.
Maybe I’ve just gotten older and a little cynical. Maybe the world is off the rails, creating tools we’re not mature enough to use. Maybe it’s a little of both.
I’m right about the end results, though. No one will care that you got railroaded on Twitter. No one will care how many “likes” your post from a trip to the brutally-oppressed country of Myanmar got. No one is affected by the fact that your waiter or waitress was having a bad day.
You may ask if people “know who you are.”
You should be asking why they should care.