How the internet democratized reviewing.

How the internet democratized reviewing.

Picture of article author Shion Periy
Shion Periy
Customer Care Specialist

The TLDR:

  • The internet has changed reviewing for better... or worse.
  • We’ve become obsessed with checking reviews, for every little purchase.
  • User reviews have granted anyone the power to make or break a business or product.
  • Opinions have evolved now that everyone’s a critic. Are we sometimes irresponsible?

Let me take you back for a brief moment to the year 2007. It was a summer Friday night, and new movies had just dropped in theatres (the great streaming platform wars had not yet begun #teamnetflix). When deciding on what movie to go see (or not see), my friends and I used to flip through the local newspaper at school, and see what someone by the name of Roger Ebert had to say about the new releases. A respected film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert was our go to as high school students, helping us decide on which movies to check out.

Fast forward 2 years and those same Friday nights were spent checking the American website Rotten Tomatoes. Here not only could we see the review by Roger Ebert, but many other critic reviews too.

Can you believe there are people out there that think Terminator 2 is a bad movie?

These reviews, for better or worse, inevitably helped us decide on what to go see. But, they also left an impression on us before even seeing the film ourselves.

Nowadays, with internet access available to nearly all, going to see a movie on a Friday night can suddenly involve the opinions of many. Not only with films, but with books, electronics, services, dining, experiences, vacations, heck even gummy bears.1 Literally anything and everything you can purchase, now has easily accessible reviews attached to it that also leave behind impressions.

While this ease of access to viewing and creating reviews should perhaps make our lives and decision-making a little easier, this also leads to a more convoluted process when deciding how to spend our money. One would think this would also lead to higher quality products…sigh. With the power of the internet in our hands, anyone can be a critic. What does that mean for all those groups of friends who go to catch the fresh new movie on a Friday night? Well, they now possess the power to leave a review for almost anyone in the world to see. More so, impact a reader or viewer’s decision on what movie to see that weekend.

Are we more obsessed with reviews than we realize?

3 stars. 7.5/10. 100%. A+. Likes. Dislikes. Everywhere we look, we can now use the internet to find reviews. In fact, most people nowadays would not purchase something that does not have reviews. No reviews, no revenue, and customers understand that there are plenty of options or brands out there for each and every purchase.2 As an ISP, this is something we are familiar with. But what kind of effect does this ease of access to reviews have on us as customers?

A couple years back I decided to purchase a sound bar to go with my TV. I went into the local Best Buy, spoke to an employee, and got a recommendation based on my needs. Great! I was ready to purchase this soundbar and be on my way. But a thought suddenly crossed my mind. Wait, but what did other people think about this soundbar? I quickly pulled out my phone and searched the soundbar online.

Well for one, it was cheaper online of course (why did I go into a retail store again?) but then I noticed the reviews. While most were positive, I of course started reading all the negative reviews on this soundbar, and walked out of the store suddenly unsure if this was the right soundbar for me. Not only could I just read reviews but I could watch videos with hands-on experiences, all pros and cons neatly listed out, and see the soundbar in action. This then led me on a month-long foray of looking online at different soundbars, and vicariously scouring reviews to find one that was suited for my needs. DOLBY ATMOS, BLUETOOTH, ALEXA … soundbar reviews had taken over my life. I became pretty obsessed not only with all the options out there, but the opinions of other users. What was supposed to be a simple purchase started to turn into a headache or, as Morty Smith would say…

Our obsession with checking reviews, while helpful, can also create a more stressful experience for buyers. Oh, you thought this would save time on making a well thought out purchase? I sure did…Instead, this can actually end up consuming more time and create impressions on purchases, that you may have otherwise had a different opinion on “going in blind”. Ultimately, we use reviews to guide our own behaviour, whether good or bad.3 And that means that literally anyone emotionally driven by an experience can instantly leave an otherwise inaccurate or misleading review on a product or service.

The power of reviews.

The internet has created a great shift over the last decade. Reviewing used to be something exclusively for critics or “experts”, but now this same power to review has been granted to, well, everyone with access to the internet to make or break a business or product. This means that even a reader like yourself can play a part in oxio’s success, or er… downfall if you’re into that sort of thing. But we know you would never!

Writing and crafting reviews is not only a power that is granted, but a power that is used to increase one’s “own sense of social belonging by sharing their opinions with others.”4 Now before we get too psychological here, think of how good it feels when we share our experience with someone and it affects their behaviour + decision.

Hey! Tried that new sushi place and it was FIRE.

Thanks, I think I’ll go try it this weekend!

Hey! Listened to the new Nickelback album and it absolutely slaps!

Wow. Remind me to never trust your opinion on music again.

Turns out, we actually are more likely to end up sharing reviews and information with others when it plays to a more extreme emotion (either positive or negative) due to it causing physiological arousal.5 Think about it. When do you ever share a 3 star google review with someone? Everyone is always immediately drawn to the 5 star and 1 star reviews at both extremities of emotions. At oxio, seeing these extremes at play is something we’re familiar with.

Feedback from both of these types of reviews actually help to shape a company like ourselves and the services we offer. With reviews having granted power to consumers and evolved the decision making process, reviews have a large impact on any business.6 Positive reviews can promote more of what is already being done, while negative reviews can steer a company in a different direction altogether - At least that’s what we hope other businesses do.

With the internet having changed accessibility to reviews and granted power to anyone to create them, we start to see a major shift in power being given to consumers. With this power, a person can choose which extremity of emotion they wish to share with the world. The way the internet has changed reviewing can be extremely helpful, but it also forays into how opinion has evolved and is also affected by the extremities of emotion conveyed in reviews.

We should all remember to be responsible with this gifted power.

Remember, “With great power comes great responsibility.” ~ RIP Uncle Ben.

The evolution of opinion.

It’s important to ponder how the internet has changed reviewing, and the impact that reviews have on every purchase that we make. While this article explores some of the darker sides of how the internet has changed reviewing, we do see examples where companies react positively to constructive feedback, and make changes based on the reviews and comments made by customers and/or fans. (#ReleaseTheSnyderCut). The good news is internet reviewing does and can help to bring about positive changes and improvements to products and services.

At oxio, we used to receive comments + reviews from customers (or upset ex-customers) about our equipment taking too long to reach one’s home. As a company, we saw these, reviewed it, and responded by upgrading all of our initial shipments to express shipping. With customers being able to freely express their opinion via comments, our company was able to collectively see and adapt thanks to people taking the time to review.

For better or worse, everyone’s a critic. With the growth of many popular and beloved blogs such as TechCrunch, Bloody Disgusting, Yardbarker, or even our very own oxio blog, we are able to witness the growth and evolution of opinion. The internet allows us to share our own opinions and comments through reviews. While no one is obliged to agree with reviews, we can’t help but sometimes go to extremes of emotion reading a review on something we care about.

Techradar rated the eero 6 router 4/5 stars.

Totally agree. Going to share this link in my group chats with friends.

Gamespot reviews gave one of my favourite films, 2021’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League a 3/10. Immediate unfollow. Never trusting their reviews again.

The internet allows you and me, and everyone we know to have an opinion. The power to review through the internet, also goes hand in hand with the power to comment. Commenting at its core, is a basic form of review. It’s a chance to voice our own opinion and say something nice, or not so nice, based on how we feel in response to content. Think back again to 2007, when we would see a review in a paper and could only discuss with friends through limited networking. Now, when something new is announced via a post, advertisement, or video, everyone can share their opinion via comment and review it within mere seconds.

Comments/reviews arm the people. Or in a darker sense, can be weaponized.

“This sucks.”

“I liked the action, but I found the writing too cheesy.”

“It was poorly executed.”

A comment can go a long way. Even if someone has no background or experience in what they are reviewing, a comment (or even fake review/comment) can allow someone to express an opinion that can trigger the emotions of a reader. As mentioned earlier, this can then impact one’s decision making in the consumption of a future product or purchase.

With the changes the internet has made for reviewing, we do see more convoluted buying experiences - Incase you’re still wondering, I would give the Yamaha YAS-108 soundbar a ⅘ rating - and the emergence of toxic fandom (perhaps more on this another day) via the evolution of opinion. But when handled responsibly, this newfound power and ease of access to reviews can help to shape better services, products, and experiences for us all. And hey, if it wasn’t for the internet granting power to us all, and the evolution of opinion by fans, we would have ended up with the monstrosity on the left as Sonic instead of the beloved character we got in the final version of the live action film. Yay internet!

Thank you to David, Danilo, and Yeona for “reviewing” this article on reviewing and helping me create something I had a blast writing.

Picture of article author Shion Periy
Shion Periy
Customer Care Specialist