Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cringe Wall

I like to read the reviews by other users on Amazon.  If you have never bothered, you need to check it out. 

There are people who write intelligent, well-thought out and rational reviews.  These can be very helpful in deciding whether or not you want to bother reading a particular book let alone spend your $$ on it.  There are the reviews that are so crazily positive that you wonder if the writer knows the author, if the writer perhaps is the author under a different name, or works for the publisher.  There are the negative reviews that make you wonder why the person ever bought the book if they hate it that much,  if the writer knows the author and hates them as a person, or if it is someone who just gets their kicks out of writing mean things on the internet.  All of them are valid, and can be helpful or amusing.

Then we have the reviews by the people who can't spell or stray so completely off topic as to no longer resemble anything like what they were meant to be.  They might be good or bad, but I put them into their own special category because after a certain point I can no longer take seriously any criticism that might have been made about the book. 

A couple of typos I can forgive and ignore.  When the entirety of the review is 2 or 3 sentences long and filled with misspellings  and other errors?  We are done.  Maybe the reviewer is a genius -- doesn't matter.  If you are writing a review trashing someone else because you think they are a horrible writer and you keep spelling things incorrectly while doing so, then I have to wonder how you feel qualified to judge whether something is poorly written. 

I just read a review that I am pretty sure was meant to be scathing, but there was no way I could take it seriously.  A review titled something like "A Big Looser, All About a Looser" is ridiculous.  Obviously you meant loser, looking at the context of the review.  Do you realize the difference the extra "o" makes?  I think we know who the loser here is, pal, and it isn't the published author.  The word quickly?  Not least I am assuming that is what the word was meant to be.  Also, I honestly don't know how gay marriage got involved in a book about a guy struggling through rehab/screwing his boss's wife.  No other review even remotely touched on the subject, and you took off on quite the rant.

I can amuse myself for quite a while reading reviews, but after a time I start to hit the Cringe Wall.   You are not familiar with the Cringe Wall?  I bet you are, you just don't have a nifty name for it.  You have encountered it before: reading reviews on Amazon, public comments on a news story or website, etc. There are 4 main steps in reaching the Cringe Wall -- at least in my experience.

1)  At first you are amused by the misspellings, you assume it is all typos.  After a while it gets annoying, but it can take a bit depending on your mood and the frequency of the typos.  This is the internet, so perhaps some of these nice people are commenting in a second or third language, and you have to cut them some slack.

2)  Now it is starting to bug you that people can't even be bothered to check their spelling, or the facts in the material upon which they are commenting (like the author's name, or a specific fact in an article). Simple things that you would think people would like to get right, especially if they are posting it under their name -- sometimes even their real-world name!

**The next 2 steps can happen in the order listed or vice-versa if you can push through the Cringe Wall and continue reading.**

3) You start to notice that the number of posts that are riddled with mistakes far outnumber the few that are spelled correctly and are at least marginally on-topic.  This causes you to seriously wonder whether everyone else is stupid, or if you are much smarter than you ever realized.

4) Eventually you get to be a bit horrified.  You start to ponder how badly the American school system is doing, and how many generations have been impacted by its slow deterioration.  You have hit the Cringe Wall -- the point at which you must stop reading before your brain explodes or you lose all respect for your fellow humans. 

For example, I often hit the Cringe Wall when I am reading the comments on a news story and someone from another country has to correct an American citizen on how our government works.  I don't care what part of the political spectrum was trying to make the point.  It is a sad, sad day for this country when someone from Australia has to explain to an American that we have 3 branches of government, for example.  Basic shit that I assumed everyone learned in elementary school.

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