Majority Of Human Discourse Now Occurring In Online Product Reviews

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Vol 39 Issue 19

Man Adds A Few Personalized Tracks To Standard New-Girlfriend Mix CD

SPRINGFIELD, MO—Wanting to add something special for new love Danielle Welter, Andy Mansfield, 24, burned three personalized tracks Monday onto his standard new-girlfriend mix CD. "Danielle loves that No Doubt song 'Running,' so I threw that on there just for her," Mansfield said. "And she doesn't really like rap, which [previous girlfriend] Erica [Hollings] loved, so I took off [Salt-N-Pepa's] 'Whatta Man' and replaced it with two Aretha Franklin songs, because Danielle loves the oldies." Mansfield said he expects Welter to love the mix "even more than Erica did, maybe even as much as Christine."

Circus Runaway Not Looking Forward To Hometown Show

SACRAMENTO, CA—Michael MacAlester, who ran away from his native Sacramento at 16 to join the circus, is not looking forward to the Big Top Circus' show this Friday in his hometown. "The idea of getting the hell out of Sacramento and joining a traveling circus was really exciting, but I guess I should've thought to check the schedule," MacAlester, 18, a unicycling clown, said Monday. "I asked the ringmaster if I could possibly sit this one out, but he said no way." MacAlester said he plans to wear extra-heavy make-up in case his parents happen to be in attendance.

Podiatrist A Jerk

HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL—Podiatrist Dr. Don Smithson is a "big jerk" who "talks down to you like you're an idiot," patient Greg Lindblad reported Tuesday. "Dr. Smithson totally scolded me for not cutting my toenails straight across—he says the ingrown toenail is my own fault," Lindblad said. "Pardon me, Dr. Smithson. My life should revolve around maintaining proper foot care. What a dick." Lindblad also claimed Smithson "completely chewed [him] out" for allowing his bunions to go untreated.

Systems Administrator Would So Fuck New Trainee

TUCSON, AZ—Speaking in confidence to coworker Brian Panos, Barton Financial Group systems administrator Tim Kreutzer revealed Tuesday that, given the chance, he would "so fuck" new office trainee Lisa Hartig, 23. "Tim was staring at Lisa from across the office floor when he dropped the bombshell that he would so fuck her," Panos said. "Obviously, I was stunned. I mean, how often do you come across a balding 51-year-old tech professional who's willing to sleep with a nubile blonde? Wow."

Yo, Don't Judge

Y'all may not realize this, but tha Accountz Reeceevin' bruthahood be forced to live in two worlds: tha supafly world o' officin' an' tha bleak-ass world of all y'all amateurs. And it ain't easy. When punchout time roll around, there be a lot o' A.R. bruthahs who don't know what to do with theyselves. Sometimes, they go to Chiliz or Applebeez, but them places be full of playa-hatas who don't approve of tha reeceevin' lifestyle, and in no time, suckaz start flexin'.

Bird Has Big Plans For Cage

HENNIKER, NH—Charlie, a Henniker-area cockatiel, announced Tuesday that he has big plans for his new stainless-steel birdcage. "Let's see—I'm gonna hang the bell from the ceiling and put my seed trough on the right wall. And I'm finally gonna get one of those rolling perches, now that I have the room," said Charlie between gulps of sunflower seeds. "And once I put up that full-length mirror, it's really gonna open up this space." Charlie said he also plans to use some of his bird toys to form a partition in the middle of the cage, creating the illusion of two separate rooms.

Department Of Homeland Security Deputizes Real Mean Dog

WASHINGTON, DC—Unveiling its newest weapon in the fight against terrorism Monday, the Department of Homeland Security announced the deputization of Rufus, a big ol' mongrel ornery enough to make Al Qaeda think twice about carrying out an attack against the U.S.
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Majority Of Human Discourse Now Occurring In Online Product Reviews

DURHAM, NC—According to a Duke University study released Monday, a majority of human interaction and communication now occurs within the context of consumer product reviews on the Internet.

American Focus

"In our increasingly soulless, mechanized world, it might seem that we're becoming more disconnected from those around us," said Duke sociology professor and study head Dr. Allan Piersall. "Well, the happy news is, people are talking to their fellow humans as much as ever. Only, they're most likely weighing in on the new Ferris polarized sunglasses from Eddie Bauer or expressing dismay over the lack of cleanliness at the Boca Raton Holiday Inn."

From the tens of millions of consumer reviews posted on retail giants like Amazon.com to the more specialized message boards of Motorcycle.com and Macaddict.com, Piersall estimated that 80 percent of all human discourse now takes the form of product reviews on the web.

While some online reviewers give little more than basic pros-and-cons of a product or a one- to five-star rating, many use the write-ups as a vital means of self-expression, providing in-depth anecdotes about their own experiences with a particular product, or even their autobiography. On Amazon.com, some reviewers create deeply personal Listmania! lists, such as "The Best Kung Fu Movies Ever" or "Things You Absolutely Need To Survive Working In A Cubicle."

"Through these product reviews, in which we fulfill our collective desire to guide our fellow humans to good purchasing decisions, a sense of community emerges," Piersall said. "But just as important, a sense of self emerges. By publicly expressing our feelings about the Coleman Quickbed air mattress, we tell people not merely about this product, but about ourselves."

With reviews running the gamut from commentary on the Criterion Collection DVD of Fellini's 8 1/2 to the usefulness of a portable Weber propane gas grill versus the traditional full-size standup model, Piersall said that "once again, we are talking."

Humans expresses themselves.

"Not only was I impressed by the large number of people expressing themselves through the written word, but I was amazed by the sophistication of the rhetoric," Piersall said. "In the same review, I saw examples of parallel construction, metaphor, and tautology, as well as standard debate devices like propositions of policy and use of evidence—all to support the argument that the Krups 872-42 Bravo Plus Espresso Maker is not worth the money."

Randy Apodaca, an Alameda, CA, assistant sales manager, recently logged onto Epinions.com to write a glowing review of the Sony SVR 2000 TiVo digital video recorder. To Piersall, more interesting than Apodaca's actual review is the fact that Apodaca had barely ever before expressed himself in a public forum.

"Though Apodaca wrote an article or two for his high-school newspaper in the late '70s, he all but dropped out of the national dialogue in the decades since," Piersall said. "Once, in 1986, he called in to a talk-radio show, but other than that, the world has had no way of knowing how Randy Apodaca felt on any issue. Until now."

Amanda Weis of Canton, OH, recently connected with a likeminded soul by reading reviews of the new Z.Z. Packer short-story collection on Barnes & Noble's web site.

"When dogoutback43@yahoo.com said Drinking Coffee Elsewhere was 'boring' and 'weird,' I could tell he wasn't my kind of person—unlike mrbingbing@juno.com," Weis said. "Mr. Bing Bing had all these great authors like Aleksandar Hemon on his list of faves, so I bought the book and some other stuff he suggested, too. I wonder if he's single."

Thanks to the online reviews, Piersall said he sees humankind moving in a positive direction.

"One of our basic human needs is to be heard," Piersall said. "It's hard to believe, but there was once a time when we were forced to seek out friends, family, and coworkers to fill this need. Today, things are much easier. We simply have to go to RateItAll.com."

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