The Secret Life of Amazon’s Vine Reviewers

Excerpt from this article:

Vine has already changed a lot, changing with it the lives of its reviewers. The life of a super-Viner is one for which not everyone is well adapted. Last year, on Reddit, a Vine reviewer who had been in the program since 2007 shared that she had been kicked out. “I’m getting ready to downsize,” she said, “and was so relieved to log in tonight and see that I am no longer a part of Amazon Vine.”

She continued: “Pretty much my whole house is furnished with Amazon Vine. I eat Amazon Vine daily, and groom with Amazon Vine daily. I was no longer selective. I got divorced some years ago and it was nice to not want to take any material things with me because I knew goodies would be coming my way, and I was blessed with so much.” It’s a startling sentiment, to be relieved to no longer have access to, effectively, unlimited free stuff. But commenters — other Viners — were generally sympathetic. In a private message, she explained to me how she had drifted into a state of “overconsumption.” Things were exciting for a few years, she said, mentioning the same thrill in nabbing a good item, or a “shiny,” enjoying the rhythmic patterns of old Vine.

But then the feed came along. “I found myself checking the queue a dozen times a day,” she said. “I didn’t want to miss the next great thing.”

People tend to consider purchases. But when things are given to you, and it’s your job to review them, the value of the object gets scrambled in surprising ways, and its influence on your life becomes easy to minimize, or disregard. The free rug needs artwork to match. You wanted a road bike, but the beach cruiser was free, and now you have a bike, but you don’t really ride it. You get a Keurig, and you hate it, but Vine keeps sending K-cups, and so you keep drinking them. “Eventually, I think Vine caught on that I wanted a Nespresso from my search history,” she wrote, “and I was finally offered a Nespresso.”

“I have eleven Vine watches, yet I only wear two on a regular basis,” she said. “Before Vine, I did not even own a watch, as I considered them old-fashioned when you can check the time on your cellphone.”

Advertisements

Bret Easton Ellis on Living in the Cult of Likability

Illustration by Luisa Vera

Excerpt from this article:

Most people of a certain age probably noticed this when they joined their first corporation, Facebook, which has its own rules regarding expressions of opinion and sexuality. Facebook encouraged users to “like” things, and because it was a platform where many people branded themselves on the social Web for the first time, the impulse was to follow the Facebook dictum and present an idealized portrait of their lives — a nicer, friendlier, duller self. And it was this burgeoning of the likability cult and the dreaded notion of “relatability” that ultimately reduced everyone to a kind of neutered clockwork orange, enslaved to the corporate status quo. To be accepted we have to follow an upbeat morality code where everything must be liked and everybody’s voice respected, and any person who has a negative opinion — a dislike — will be shut out of the conversation. Anyone who resists such groupthink is ruthlessly shamed. Absurd doses of invective are hurled at the supposed troll to the point that the original “offense” often seems negligible by comparison.

Now all of us are used to rating movies, restaurants, books, even doctors, and we give out mostly positive reviews because, really, who wants to look like a hater? But increasingly, services are also rating us. Companies in the sharing economy, like Uber and Airbnb, rate their customers and shun those who don’t make the grade. Opinions and criticisms flow in both directions, causing many people to worry about how they’re measuring up. Will the reputation economy put an end to the culture of shaming or will the bland corporate culture of protecting yourself by “liking” everything — of being falsely polite just to be accepted by the herd — grow stronger than ever? Giving more positive reviews to get one back? Instead of embracing the true contradictory nature of human beings, with all of their biases and imperfections, we continue to transform ourselves into virtuous robots. This in turn has led to the awful idea — and booming business — of reputation management, where a firm is hired to help shape a more likable, relatable You. Reputation management is about gaming the system. It’s a form of deception, an attempt to erase subjectivity and evaluation through intuition, for a price.

This Restaurant Wants to Be the Worst Rated on Yelp, and the Reviews Are Indeed Hilarious: 25% off for your 1-star critique

Excerpt from this article:

Botto Bistro, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco, is vying for the worst Yelp rating in the Bay Area by offering customers 25 percent off for their 1-star reviews. Owner David Cerretini, who tells SFGate that the promotion is “the best business move I have made in years,” …refuses to back down, claiming he’s attracting higher-paying customers who are quite loyal. Not to mention, damn funny.