A Review Culture

By Scott Keith


I hope that this is not viewed as a cop-out, but I employed the assistance of a guest author today. Last night, my son, Caleb Keith (The Junior Critic), was discussing his philosophy paper with me. The ideas in that paper sounded like a great blog entry, so I asked him to cull it down to 500 words or so. What you read below are his thoughts on the “Review Culture”.

Reviews have extended into all parts of life. People, places, and things are all constantly reviewed. It seems that anything that is a noun must necessarily have a review attached. These reviews help in decision making, whether it be where to eat or even how to pass the time on the couch at home. The benefits of reviews are numerous. They can often save money, energy and time for the consumer and the give invaluable feedback to the companies that wish to keep improving their product. Reviews could also be hurting all of us. Has the idea of genuinely experiencing and evaluating an experience or product for oneself gone out the door?

Preconceived notions imprinted by reviews cloud the slate of interpretation and disengage a person from the beauty or lack of beauty left by engaging experiences for themselves.

Review culture has taken over the consumer world. Amy Gesenhues, a contributor at Marketing Land states, “According to a new surveyconducted by Dimensional Research, an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.” They key word to focus on is “online”. The instant access of the Internet gives people an escape hatch out of the fear of a bad experience. The same survey quoted above took the time to ask, “what about such reviews captured the buyer’s trust”? Top of the list was an excellent customer experience. Reviews are allowing people to avoid bad experiences and corrupt the ability to judge experiences independently. 


This fear of experience goes much farther than just the business world. Experiences like travel, outdoor recreation, and video watching are all covered in reviews. Like in business the benefits seem immediate. Reviews allow a person to tailor an experience to what they think will be most enjoyable, while avoiding unnecessary strife or conflict.  This ability to pre-tailor an experience before it even occurs runs the danger of removing the actual beauty of those experiences. 

I myself am guilty of this self-tailored approach, and even further I often use reviews as a form of self-justification of my purchases and experiences. Before my father and I go climbing, I often look at the best-reviewed areas. Even this last week I found myself checking a review of a video game I had already purchased, played, and enjoyed. The need for consensus and acceptance of my experience often become more important than the experience itself. In the case of my video game, by looking at the reviews after I played, I am hoping to not only justify my playing of the game, but also to instill some sort of pride that I picked the best option available.


When looking at faith I don’t want to get all charismatic or burning of the bosom on you, however too often the church becomes a cycle of looking for consensus and popular review rather than an experience of forgiveness in the proclamation of the Gospel. The Gospel is an experience that comes out of the grace given by Christ in His death and resurrection. We often look for consensual acceptance of what we believe, and not at the justification of our sins. Sometimes Church feels more like a justification of our choice to attend church or Bible study. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Christ is certainly the best choice or the top review, however Ephesians shows us Christ isn’t a choice at all. Christ gives Himself to us, no review necessary, making us perfectly justified and perfectly forgiven in His blood.

And there you go… The Junior Critic! See you next week.