‘Everyone’s a critic’ – this phrase has never been truer than right now, with a world of unskilled food, fashion and uncultured culture vultures emerging to entertain us over the internet. Many are not so much ‘in the know’ as they are wealthy in disposable time. Blogging and other social media encourage the mass regurgitation of our thoughts and feelings with wild, uncertified abandon. While we’ve gained a wired world, educating us on absolutely everything, should we not be worried that we’re being educated by absolutely everyone?
Dinners out have become camera flash warfare. No moderately attractive meal can possibly go unrecorded and unpublished. There was a brief time when taking a photo of your food was for the personal posterity of the moment but it’s now more likely that the said plate of piled and garnished ingredients will appear as if by magic alongside a uneducated yet in depth criticism of the meal. Are we all food critics, capable of accurately explaining and rating a gourmet meal and accompanying wine? No. Is cyber-criticism spinning out of control. Perhaps. Now that everyone has access to the entire world as their audience, there’s no filter and even less consequence for our opinions. And like you know what, everyone has an opinion.
So what of the professional critics themselves? Are their opinions less important now that ‘real people can be counted on to let everyone know how they feel? According to an article by Richard Lacayo in Time Magazine, “…there is no beating the regular folk who have popped up all over the Internet. Everywhere in cyberspace there are Web pages where do-it-yourself critics hold fort about movies, books, music and restaurants, to say nothing of airlines, power tools, and disposable diapers.” Despite being ill-informed and in some cases badly written, the thinking behind this new wave of mass criticism is – “my opinion is as good as anybody’s.” But is it? Uncertified, unsupervised advice has flooded the internet and suddenly people looking for actual advice are victim to unsolicited opinions. With the exception of travel sites, where public opinion is exactly what’s being called for, self-appointed experts can be a very dangerous phenomena for businesses who rely on reviews from people who know what they’re talking about.
One way of looking at it is that the opinions of ‘real’ people can be trusted. The world of professional taste-makers is marred with corruption. Members of the press are more often than not, wined and dined, gifted and ultimately bribed into writing rave reviews, while your next door neighbour’s rant on the latest box office releases is at least coming from someone who has nothing to gain.
As a writer who is paid to inform, challenge and review, I have to say that the ever-expanding blogging community is a little annoying, just because I get paid to do this and have paid money to hone my skills, so layman offering the same services for free isn’t convenient. Yet, in a world where everyone’s opinions count and there are so many opinions floating around, the amount of dialogue out there is amazing – and inspiring. My views on food, fashion and lifestyle are not ‘better’ than anyone else’s, they’re just better put, and they’re mine. And as Time Magazine summed it up – “There are no tests, like in law school. You just have to assert yourself and be able to write.”