I’ve got a few friends who are on a retreat together this weekend … they’re off, I’m sure, having a great time away from it all in the woods … getting to know each other better … hoping to know God better. They’ve been having this annual retreat together for a few years now, but I’m willing to bet this year it is going to be a different experience for them. In fact, I’m willing to bet it already HAS been different for them. Now, I don’t know that yet … and won’t until they get home. That’s because the difference is … wait for it … they chose to leave their phones and hand-helds at home this time.
[gasp!] I know! it borders on lunacy, right? Flirting with disaster, I think. They have disconnected from the populist media … from the answers that we have come to expect having at our fingertips every second. They’ve disconnected from Google and Yahoo; From Facebook and Twitter; from Wikipedia, Yelp and Amazon.
I don’t know if I could do it. What about those e-mails? And the status updates? How can they go without posting a few candid photos? And, perhaps most importantly, how will they review the meal service at the retreat center? Or post their thoughts on the book they are reading?
When my phone battery dies in the middle of the day I have been known to suffer from withdrawal. Especially if I’m looking for a restaurant or shopping. I’d just as soon not eat unless I can find a place that Yelp reviewers love. And I will wait to have something shipped to me if I can’t read the reviews on Amazon to find out what they have to say about it.
Anybody else have that problem? I don’t know how many times they have saved me from making terrible mistakes to my digestive tract and my credit card statement. Usually the aggregate reviews are enough for me … I trust them, especially when they represent a big sample size, like 400 reviews as opposed to 40 or 4. If being a baseball fan has taught me anything it is that: the bigger the sample, the more accurate the prediction. Big sample plus low rating always equals back on the shelf (or walk on by).
But what makes me even more leery than a low average review are the places and items that have NO reviews. Now, this is probably unfair of me. Just because it is unpopular doesn’t mean it is bad. Maybe it just hasn’t been marketed well. Maybe they are new. Maybe the kind of people who frequent the place (or buy the product) aren’t into social media. Sadly, my brain doesn’t often seem to process that way. If nobody has taken the time to write a review, I am bound to think that, maybe, it is really bad…worse even than the big-sample, low-review places and things. The ethos of the no-review … of the unknown … is where we find Nathanael in our scripture lesson from John’s Gospel today. (more…)