In many ways we’re probably lucky that we don’t have to do everything in the dark. We don’t have to risk wasting our time on an unknown. By this I mean, if we wanted to go out for dinner or watch a film, somewhere there’ll be a review and ratings, and these things are easy to find. If there are enough people rating something, you should be able to trust it, right? There are apps that rate everything from restaurants to coffee (Zomato/Beanhunter). Products (Amazon) and books (Goodread) and films (IMDb/Rotten Tomato) and even teachers (Ratemyteacher).
But is this really a good thing? We’re not all the same are we?
In fact when I think about it, and I look at my own taste compared to the majority of people out there, I’m quite different. I like different music, I’m extremely picky with my pizza choice and I like watching sports that many people don’t. I genuinely enjoy watching cycling more than any other sport. So why would I trust the views and opinions of an average.
My first observation of this is the pizza ratings around Melbourne. Some of my favourite pizza joints have only a slightly average ratings on Zomato. LazerPig has a 3.9, 400 Gradi has a 3.8, Zanini has a 3.8. When I’m looking for a new restaurant I often make a snap judgement on its quality based on its rating. If it’s below 4, it’s not going to be anything special. Then I look at the pizza places that do have ratings above 4 and the images disgust me! They’re not what I call real pizza. Real italian wood fire oven made pizza. A little soggy and floppy in the middle with big fluffy crusts. They’re these thin, cardboard looking things with too much cheese and often feature pineapple. Australians, as a majority, prefer shit pizza with pineapple on top.
Looking back, I’ve often had better experiences when winging it. By not using ratings. Take a trip to Florence for example. A couple of years ago I went to Florence with my girlfriend of the time. One night we decided to go for a walk, no plans, no research, just look around and see what takes our fancy. Low and behold we stumbled across a restaurant that looked nice enough, and it turned out to be one of the best nights of the holiday. Compare that to another night, where we did a lot of research, wasted a couple of hours looking on TripAdvisor for somewhere good to eat. Finally we found one of the best rated places for steak in Florence. Our experience was far short of the reviews. The staff were not only rude, but incompetent. We were given a jug of wine and no glasses for about 10 minutes. When our steaks came, they were advertised as fillets, but were full of fat. We basically ate what we could and left.
So why do we trust the majority? Is it to protect ourselves against poor choices? Is it to make sure we’re not missing out on something better? Maybe. But I can honestly say I’ve had more fun nights winging it or finding somewhere based on impression than finding “the best” place to go. Forming my own opinion of something. If we’re always searching on these review websites, we miss the opportunity to discover something new for ourselves. Something that has never been rated or reviewed. Drop the review website and you could stumble on a hidden gem; a truly hidden gem. Although you could also have the worst night of your life. But that’s exciting unto itself.
I’m not trying to say we can’t value quality. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have high standards. But I am saying we could sometimes stand to put down our phones or stop looking for the best place to go. To stop worrying about what could be better, and take a more adventurous approach. If something looks good from the outside or takes your fancy from first impression, go for it and worry about reviewing it yourself before leaning on other people’s opinions.