No one who has thought about purchasing a video game will be unfamiliar with this guy:
He’s the one who takes the time to talk about all the things he doesn’t like about the game he just paid money for, usually prefixing or suffixing his post with this:
In his mind, his actions are taken with the noblest of intentions: to help people avoid the same mistakes he made in buying this product.
Of course, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, which is a far more applicable chestnut to apply than “I’m just trying to help”. This is a point that’s so often lost on the Citizens of the Internet: your opinion is not fact, and how you feel about a product, service, response from a Community Manager, business decision, color, gender, or scent of a product is in no way, shape, or form a Universal Constant. People are free — and should be free — to come to their own, independent conclusions.
If you want to help, then help. Helping doesn’t mean warning people away; it means clarifying, explaining, and being as fair as subjective beings can be, to lay it all out there and to let people do with it what they will. The ultimate goal shouldn’t be to win people over to “a side”, but to arm people with knowledge and to let them make up their own minds. That, of course, means that they’ll be free to come to an opposing conclusion. For some, that’s an unacceptable outcome, because if more people end up liking a thing that they despise, then that thing will become successful, will grow, and may spawn more of the same. At the very least, this new bane of their existence will continue to exist in its own right due to all of the “sheeple” who are “blind” to the reality that someone’s opinion was recognized as just that: one person’s opinion, and that their warnings — and they themselves — were ignored.
We’re a long ways away from the days of Edward R. Murrow’s straight-talking newscasts. Everything we’re subjected to is editorialized right out of the gate because as social creatures in an age where we can speak to millions of people at a time (if we’re lucky), we want to show that we’re someone who’s worth listening to, and by extension, someone worth getting to know. Saying that “we just want to help” in the footnotes of our swear-laden, insult-filled diatribes makes us seem altruistic — we took one for the team and lived to write this review, so you don’t have to make the same mistake — but no one is fooled. We’re smart enough to recognize an axe being ground when we see it.
“Don’t feed the trolls” is the fallback response from those surrounding the pained missives, but we all know that there could be 100 fair and balanced posts, and that it takes just a single agenda-laden one to derail a potential customer’s decision to support. For all the letters I’ve written here, the fact is that venom works. We’re far more focused on knowing what could prevent us from using a product than we are in knowing about what enjoyment we could get out of it. The cost to benefit ratio Is All, and it doesn’t even matter if someone’s angry diatribe is based in fact or is 100% pure unadulterated vendetta. It just takes a steady stream of suddenly disillusioned potential customers for and angry post to have disastrous effects.
That’s what concerns me, that the angry posts and reviews have such a disproportionate impact on people’s opinions. I don’t think that this post would convince anyone who’s girding themselves to write a flaming missive about a product to re-think their true purpose and their intended approach; I don’t have that much power over my own child, never mind the Children of the Internet. The best I can do is to use this space to vent my own dissatisfaction with the way people choose to tear things down instead of using their efforts to try and Make Things Better.