Okay, so there’s something that I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that has come to a head with the launch of Anthem–the idea of being a “critical thinking” is under assault like never before. Now, this is nothing new–politicians often want to sway public opinion. This has been the case in western civilization throughout history so there’s nothing new there. However, when I was in school, both in elementary school and high school, we (as students) were taught look at a situation, a work (literary or entertainment-based), a problem–whatever it was, and analyze it critically. The goal may be different–how to navigate an unfamiliar situation, how look at a non-fiction work to for its educational properties, how to decipher what is the better value, and so on. However, tied into the rise of the idea of “alternative facts” and “fake news” is this idea that social media knows all and is the ultimate arbitor of who you should be and what you should be doing, irregardless if it makes sense for your life. And–if you can’t tell–I’m not okay with this.
They’re called “Influencers” for a Reason!
Now, “marketing” has been a major for in American capitalism since their ascendence in the 1950s (see Madmen), but before social media, the focus was on the product and on the competition. How can we make our product better (or more competitive–which isn’t necessarily the same as better)? How can we show that our product is better than our competitor’s product? How can we increase our market share? Now, however, the marketing departments are targeting the consumer. For instance, Mike Ybarra, an executive for Microsoft, took issue with the critical reviews of Anthem. Okay, we get it. You would like Anthem to be this awesome game that you can then use to promote the X-Box “brand.” However, ignoring the flaws in the game and spending money on an experience that you will probably dislike doesn’t do you, the consumer, any good, while it does help the company’s bottom line. I’m so incensed about this because there’s this idea that that reviews are no longer relevant–they’re old, outdated. You should be watching a “streamer” play the game. I’ve heard this at least twice from two different people in the gaming industry.
No, No, and NO! Reviews are part of the critical conversation that is essential to the critical thinking process. The best reviews provide pros, cons, and context to the piece being reviewed. A streamer (or influencer) plays the game and the company relies on peer pressure to influence your purchasing decision. Look at how much fun this person is having–or if it is like Anthem, see how pretty the game is, surely the problems can’t be that bad. Rather than allowing you to make an educated decision as to whether something is valuable and/or useful to you, they’d rather use the pressure of your peers and the appeal of the product to sway your decision. And I’m not a fan.
Toe-May-Toe or Toe-Mah-Toe, it Still Equals Tomato, Except On YouTube.
Think this isn’t truly the case–then take a look at pretty much any comments section of a YouTube video, especially one where the speaker pronounces a word differently than others. Beta is something that is usually (in America) pronounced as (Bay-Ta), but some people pronounce it (Bee-Ta). However, there’s no room for individuality on the Internet–everyone has an opinion. For the Beta video that I’m referring to, pretty much every third commentor was focusing on the speaker’s pronunciation of Beta–not the actual news story that the Beta. Social media relies on the idea that all the “cool” people are doing this, so you should be doing it too. Don’t like that movie, what’s wrong with you, don’t like that game, you’re so square, love that show, everyone knows its crap–why are you even watching it?
Others can be swayed by this “death-by-peer” mentality forced on us my the various social media platforms, but I value my critical thinking skills and will continue using them. Corporations–want me to buy your product? Give me a good product at a fair price. If that’s too hard, then no amount “hype” from streamers/influencers is going to sway my opinion. Governments–want me to believe you? Show me, not by your words, but by your actions.
A critical review is a thousand times more useful than social media–and I’ll fight tooth-and-claw for my right to continue to exercise my right to think for myself–as much as corporations and governments may hate it.
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