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Everybody’s a Critic

Feedback Bites Back

Critic taking and giving stars

It used to be that criticism belonged to the ranks of five classes of people – professional critics, impartial consumer product reviewers, your mother, your best girlfriend, and your in-laws.

Now, thanks to the Internet, everybody’s a critic. Everybody with a bone to pick — informed or terribly ill-informed — is a critic.

You can ding short-staffed restaurants, struggling retailers, and barely-managing masseurs on Yelp; you can demolish drivers on Uber and Lyft, and you can anonymously trash-talk people on all sorts of social media websites. It’s a scary Internet world.

For a long time, I ignored casual “citizen” reviewers. If I wanted to know what somebody thought, I wanted to know what somebody-in-the-know knew and opined. If I needed a theater or a movie review, I opened The New York Times Arts and Book Review sections. If I needed a new toaster or vacuum cleaner, I turned to Consumer Reports.

If I needed confirmation that my husband was an insensitive clod, I asked my mother (although she generally sided with my husband). If I thought I looked fat, I’d ask my girlfriend for a hasty assurance that I was mistaken.

But now I know that everything is reviewed online, even you, even me! Read more

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Middle-aged Chatter

Why Do We All Talk to Strangers?

Do you remember the doll Chatty Cathy? If you grew up in the early 60s, you probably had one. Second to Barbie, this pull-string talking toy was the most popular doll on the market. I had a Chatty Cathy and loved her dearly.

And like my doll, I was a regular Chatty Cathy. I talked so much as a child that my family used to pay me to keep quiet. I’d get a nickel for every fifteen minutes I’d keep still. The truth is, I didn’t collect many nickels.

I wasn’t just chatty. I was really friendly. I once invited a total stranger over to our house. When he showed up, my mother won’t let him in, of course. But he wouldn’t leave. My mother called the police and that night both my parents gave me a stern lecture about not talking to strangers.

Yet, if I wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, my middle-aged mother was setting a bad example. Read more

Microwave Maladies and Magic

Early one morning our microwave broke. I ordered a new one. A delivery date and time for installation were set and that was that. No big deal, at least not for me, but for others, life without a microwave was a challenge. Read more

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