Several years ago, when I was thinking of starting a blog, I consulted some folks already immersed in their respective blogs. I asked about the problems they encountered and how they handled them.
One issue that caught my eye was the number of nasty comments they received that prompted them to delete the comment and then bar the poster from access to their site. One even felt she had been “stalked” electronically and said the feeling was frightening.
I thought to myself, that’ll never happen to me.
Now, because of my involvement in a food website of some renown, I became aware that there was a phenomenon of disruptive, uncivil and at times psychotic-sounding posts. These are often posted late at night or early in the morning and could well be linked to sleep deprivation, alcohol and/or drugs.
When I consulted my IS/IT experts at the university and did some Google Scholar searching I discovered there was a whole literature out there unknown by me and printed far from the traditional psychological/psychiatric literature. What posters would post in the darkest hours of the night they apparently would never articulate in person or in a traditional snail mail.
Subsequently, I’ve discovered that chefs, their staffs and relatives Google themselves to see what the blogosphere is saying about them; I know this because:
First, on second or third visits to new places I’ve reviewed positively, one or the other approaches me to thank me.
Second, I know it because occasionally they will offer to treat me and colleagues to a repeat meal at their expense because they are so sure I’ll love it.
Third, I know it because I get critical (and sometimes off the wall) posts that take my criticism personally, in a way only a chef, staff or relative would.
And finally, I hear from loyal customers who are astonished, outraged or otherwise upset that I have dared critique “their” favorite chef or restaurant, impugning my palate, judgment or sanity.
I try to calibrate my critical senses by eating with folks of different stripes who write a lot about food and/or restaurants or who produce great meals themselves; to read all I can on others’ takes on new places; and to do what most critics insist is the only way to learn to critique – to eat a lot. And if I read or am told I’m all wet about a place, I revisit.
We all have an off meal; an off dish; pure consensus is rare but in general I think we’re all aiming for the same target - to steer folks to places they’d enjoy and away from places they’d be disappointed in.