How much do you feel you’re influenced on a daily basis? Social media opens us up to comparison of others but what about our opinions? If you’re presented with a video or article, it’s hard not to read the plethora of comments posted underneath before we’ve even clicked on it.
Many times people read movie reviews on IMDB to decide whether or not they will watch a film. And many times people meticulously read customer reviews and ratings on Amazon before deciding to buy something.
In essence, we’re being made to create an opinion before we’ve had the chance to make our own. Most of the time it’s alarmingly unconscious.
The Dangers of Reading Comments and Reviews
While we think we’re reading comments to make a balanced and informed decision, we don’t take into account the intentions behind another person’s comments.
Most of us only leave comments if we strongly agree or disagree with something, meaning that around 90% of the comments you read are left by either very loyal supporters or people who are emotionally charged in a negative way. Therefore, we need to take into account that these extreme opinions tend to be biased and not constructive.
Emotions can drive our decisions. They can easily interject into our daily situations quickly and with little thought. If we get a positive emotion (excitement or enthusiasm) or negative emotion (anxiety or worry) in any given circumstance where a decision can be made, we are highly influenced by that emotion.
A study was conducted in 2003 where a group of American citizens were asked to read either a fear-inducing news story about anthrax mail threats, or an anger-inducing news story about Middle Eastern nations celebrating the 9/11 attacks. The research found people who were put into an angry state saw the world as ‘less risky’ and therefore supported harsher measures against suspected terrorists.
This illustrates that, when we read seemingly harmless yet influential comments, we really have no idea about the commenter or their emotional state while writing their opinion. We can easily read them as authentic comments but in reality this is a myth.
An Unknown Conspiracy
How genuine are the comments you read? The opportunity to make money is unfortunately allowing businesses to create the power to alter our opinions and decisions.
Many companies actually employ people to create fake comments in order to influence a customer’s decision. Even worse, some employ people to write negative comments about their competitors in order to attack their reputation.
Don’t underestimate the power and knowledge big guns have on how to strategically sway customer’s ideas and decisions through simple reviews and ratings. While it’s not yet illegal, watchdogs are becoming increasingly alarmed at the amount of fake reviews currently out there on all major sites. It’s worrying when many of us trust what we’re reading and even make big purchases based on seemingly positive reviews.
How Not to Be Manipulated by Comments and Reviews
We need to be very vigilant when it comes to comments. Being aware of either fake comments or understanding the possible emotion used by the writer at that moment it was written is a first step.
Don’t Be Quick to React to Comments
You may read a comment you don’t agree with and often in this case, anger may rise up. But commenting in this state is only adding to a biased view. How many times do our emotions cause us to act in a certain way only to feel differently once we’ve stepped back and evaluated things?
It’s best to react with as little emotion as possible or make them irrelevant to your decision. It could be an opinion you feel extremely offended by or a review you just don’t agree with. While your opinion is important, take time out before you respond so your emotions are more balanced. This way you won’t add to the influence of emotional charge.
Be Critical of the Comments You Read
You may read a harsh and angry review about a product you’re thinking of purchasing but try to read between the lines.
Is there a specific reason or circumstance that has influenced their negative comment? Perhaps it’s something that wouldn’t apply to you. Try to read other comments the poster has written to see if they have a tendency to write negatively. In other words, step back, take what they’ve said into account but be aware of it’s overall influence.
Others’ opinions are based on personal and emotional perspectives. While some may be valid, it’s best to use them as a reference only. Doing solid research especially when we’re investing money into buying something, is always a must to get a thorough and balanced view on the product. Read more about how to shut down the voice of the peanut gallery: The Jeopardy of Taking Others’ Opinions Seriously
The sad truth is we can miss out on great things if we’re influenced too much by negative comments or reviews. Instead of basing a movie on it’s IMDB rating or choosing a book on Amazon with the most stars, choose the genre you like and find out for yourself. It’s how we find those hidden gems that add value to our lives.
Reviews and Comments Are for Reference Only
At the end of the day, we need to be more aware of how much we’re influenced by others. Be mindful of the comments and reviews and don’t always take them at face value.
Our general life experiences and emotions can dictate how we react in any moment so the only opinion that matters will be yours – find out for yourself and form your own opinion. What doesn’t work for others may work for you.
|||^||The Atlantic: The Best Headspace for Making Decisions|