I can’t remember the last time I went to a restaurant with less than 3.5 stars on Yelp or made a recipe that didn’t have at least four positive responses in the comment section. It’s not shocking to say that social networking has a great impact on our everyday life, with no exception to its grasp on the food world.
Online networking sites such as Yelp, Google reviews, Zomato (previously Urbanspoon), and TripAdvisor, as well as both private and online community food blogs, have an area on their webpages in which ANY person can leave a comment and rate the restaurant/recipe on a 1 to 5 scale.
Here are my thoughts on how this area of social networking is affecting where we eat and what we cook.
I look at ratings like a statistical analysis.
I’m going to start this point off with a little math problem, and you may need one of your freshman year Stats cheat sheets. This is all hypothetical, but based on a true-life situation:
You are looking for a fudge recipe for your charity bake sale. After Googling “easy fudge recipes,” you see that the The Creamy Dreamy Fudge has 4.5 gold stars with 9 votes but Grandma’s World Famous Fudge has 4 stars with 57 votes.
Which recipe do you choose based on sample size and calculated mean? Is the null hypothesis rejected? That last one may be too mathematical for fudge, but you get the gist.
My point is, at what point do I trust and accept that enough people have tried the recipe and had remarkable outcomes? This rating system ends up making me think too much, and all I want is fudge.
I’m putting trust into random people.
My next concern is on the population that is leaving their personal remarks. How much of my life choices should be based off another person’s experience?
If Wendy C. commented on February 7th that the crispy taters are TO DIE FOR, does that mean I need to order some? But what if Timmy J. said in 2012 that I should never step foot in the restaurant because he only got one crouton on his salad (that was a real comment left on Yelp, but I changed the name and date for confidentiality precautions).
I’ve realized that I am letting people that may not even have similar tastebuds or food preferences influence where I go to eat.
It’s bad for small businesses/bloggers.
I readily click on the first links that pop up on search engines (and I bet you do, too). I’m not going to lie, sometimes scrolling all the way down the page and pressing “next” takes just a little bit too much time when food is on the mind.
Lesser known businesses and small blog sites are often left at the bottom of the page, due to lack of advertising and ratings. This causes fewer consumers to view the sites. Further, small mom and pop restaurants may be sliding under social media’s radar because technology is surpassing the small business’ advertising skills, and it only takes a few comments to ruin a reputation.
Sometimes the independent bloggers have the best kitchen hacks and funky recipes, but they go unnoticed because there are no stars popping off their page. I feel like there are some secretly great sites and restaurants out in the food world, but lack of online traffic means you’re not seeing them.
Is it still an adventure?
When date night roles around, I immediately I start scrolling the internet, looking for only the best of the best. When I’m strolling down the street and my stomach starts to growl, I also turn to the internet before walking through the doors of a restaurant.
You can readily know if a restaurant is “good” or “bad” based on rates and comments. While this helps you avoid eating a subpar meal, it takes away the sense of adventure of trying something completely new.
My final point to the social networking world is to maybe try the restaurant that has 3 stars and make the cookies from the blog sites with no comments. You don’t know what you’re missing out on until you try.