Amazon Reviews (and almost everything else): Trust No One.

Weeks ago I was reading a few Amazon forums of reviewers bashing reviewers and customers reading reviews, when I came across a comment that said, “you have to know who you can trust…” I felt a bit flummoxed. I review quite a bit for Amazon and although I am happy to express how a book, bra or spoon rest made me feel, I don’t think I ever thought about wanting or having anyone’s trust.

Having someone’s trust is a big deal. You are putting a lot of pressure on the person you are trusting to make a choice, a decision for you. A choice you should really be making for yourself based on the information you have available. I categorically claim I trust no one. This may sound ridiculous or like the rot of a mentally ill mind, but let me explain. I don’t wish to put anyone under the pressure of making decisions for me. When I read Amazon reviews, which I do very frequently, I read them to get a feel for what a broad numbers of people who have the product thought. I do not read one reviewer who is a mate or a personality I stalk and just go on their recommendations. To my OCD addled mind that sounds creepy.

I don’t follow individual reviewers and I really hope no one follows me because we aren’t clones of each other. Even if my reading preferences are very similar to another persons we are not going to feel the same about a book or pick the same books or philosophically speaking even read the same book. We have to account for individuality and that undefinable quality referred to as taste. Also previous life experiences, expectations and oh so many more factors decide what reaches us and moves us to feel a certain way. I definitely don’t recommend going on the stars a book has, I have read many a turkey that way! Stars are amusing to look at but some of the best books I have read so far this year had no stars until I came along and decided to award them. See what I did there? No seriously I am urging you to take in the available information and think for yourselves.

Now I think is a good time for a real life example that illustrates what I mean. In 2008 I bought a Brown Bengal Spotted stud boy from a breeder who at that time I trusted. I put too much pressure on a person who didn’t want to have any accountability or knowledge of ill health in her bloodlines. What I should have done was taken a moment, asked to see echocardiogram results of both of the parents and the stud in question if available. If some of these things were not available for me to see I should have walked away. I should have decided that I was going to buy a cat from heart scanned parents only and what my cut offs for IVSD (Intraventricular Thickness at Diastole), the thickness of the wall between both ventricles when the heart is at rest, that I was willing to accept as safe were and chosen a boy with my specifications. In fact had I chosen all cats in my breeding programme this way there would have been a better outcome for my breeding programme and my relationship with the average Bengal breeder. I can’t blame the reluctant and probably uninformed breeder for my lack of effort into placing my own safeguards. Not that my guarantee to people who have my kittens changes in any way, I have broad shoulders and am happy to take the responsibility that breeders were unwilling to after I bought from them.

Likewise when I choose a book I look at the genre, the description, the distribution of stars awarded and read a number of reviews to see what people felt. One star reviews from people who haven’t read the book or found a book labeled as explicit, exceptionally smutty are not fair representations of the book. Five star gushing reviews are fun to read but aren’t telling the whole story necessarily. Some of these gushing reviews sound like the person was delighted to have got to the end.

Also is reading a book you don’t enjoy a lot a bad thing? How can you appreciate those books you like if you haven’t had a bad book experience? If I hadn’t lost my stud boy I would still be naive to the nature of people in the bengal breeding business and I wouldn’t know half as much about veterinary practices and the art of grief as I do now. I wouldn’t be able to tell genuine consideration for health in breeding cats from cold profit/loss evaluations. In addition, I lost my stud boy in 2010, there was a significant death in the family a year later. The journey of grief in 2010 helped me to function the following year. I have suffered significant loss before but for who I was in 2011 and where I was in life, 2010 brought an understanding I would not have otherwise had. The experience that ensued help me make more suitable choices for my future. A future that cannot be chosen by the experiences, values and say-so of someone else.

So when I say trust no one, I mean please think for yourselves, take in the information available at your fingertips from the wonderful invention we call the Internet, libraries, public opinion, reflect, mull it over and then make a choice. All we really have are a number of choices which ultimately define who we are. Don’t give up the privilege and freedom to choose to anyone, especially some unknown lone stranger sat typing on a keyboard who you may have absolutely nothing in common with and who doesn’t want to be saddled with blame for your choices.

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