A couple weeks ago we talked about the Internet and the opportunities it’s opened for everyone around the globe.
We also talked about the fact that it’s provided a forum for people who consider themselves experts on a variety of subjects -- coaching football teams, evaluating music, cooking -- though in reality they might not have any expertise at all in those fields. They just think they do.
I mentioned at that time that the Internet has also given a microphone to soreheads -- people who just don’t seem to be satisfied with anything at all.
You probably know someone who always looks on the dark side of things. The weather is too cold or too hot. A meal in a restaurant never pleases them, and doggone it, the service is always terrible. TV ain’t what it used to be. Carmakers are just putting out pieces of junk.
Those are the people we often try to avoid. If we see them coming in the front door of the post office, we go out the side door.
Perpetual naysayers, they are. Crepehangers, going back to an old funerary term.
Hey, admit it. You know people like that. Acquaintances usually walk away from them, not wanting to hear the steady barrage of criticism they always have at the ready.
Now with multiple places on the Internet to review things and comment, many of these soreheads have finally found a bandstand where people can’t dodge them. And they intend to let everybody know that this world, by golly, is a pretty sorry place.
You might be familiar with these sites, places like Tripadvisor and Yelp. They’re generally helpful if you’re looking at things to do, places to eat or hostelries, especially if you’re going to be somewhere you’ve never been before. Even Google has a method for people to comment on what they’re searching.
But Web experts say we should take such sites with a grain of salt and balance all the comments, both favorable and caustic.
Not long ago, after a short vacation and a particularly pleasurable stay at a nifty little hotel we had visited before, I came upon a review of it, with lots of comments such as “great place to stay,” ‘well worth the money” and “a must-stay location, with a terrific staff.”
But then, one person had this to say, among other things: “appalling ... filthy floors ... moldings looked as if a dog had chewed them ... nasty.”
Among dozens of favorable comments, this guy -- or maybe it was a woman -- wanted the world to know that not only did he dislike his room, it was appalling.
I next saw a restaurant in the same area we’d stayed, one where we’ve experienced tasty meals, terrific atmosphere and reasonable prices. Almost all the other reviewers echoed those qualities, commenting on the fast and friendly service, the variety of the menu, freshness of the food and the quality of the preparation.
But as usual, there were a few soreheads: “our food was chewy and overcooked” ... “poor and rude service” ... “don’t waste your money” ... “tourist trap restaurant.”
Of course, people’s perceptions do indeed vary, and even the best hotels and restaurants have an off day every once in awhile. But the caustic language and tone confirm what I’ve believed for a long time:
Soreheads are soreheads, whether you meet them on the street or run into them on the Internet.
In fact, Google allows you to see other reviews a person has posted and -- you guessed it -- a pattern usually emerges. One guy had made a trip up the coast, commenting on every restaurant where he ate.
Ten restaurants, ten scathing reviews.
But there’s a strategy readers can use. Just like the post office has a side door where you can flee when you see a crepehanger headed your way, every keyboard has a “Delete” key.
It’s like a magic button to transfer you away from those who can’t help but be negative. Press that button, and you can smile again.