Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Friday, 17 March 2017

Everything That\\\'s Wrong With Netflix\\\'s New Rating System

Netflix's New Rating System Is Everything That's Wrong With The Internet

The Debrief: We need to stop trying to simplify human experience for the sake of ease on social media

Netflix have announced that they are going to replace their super complicated star rating system with a ‘simple’ thumbs up or thumbs down system in order to keep up with the ‘lingo of the internet.’

That’s right guys, last night the clock struck twelve and Netflix turned into somebody’s baby boomer mum. 

Apparently, the plan was inspired by the way that dating websites work. Netflix vice-president has explained ‘we’re creating a dating site in a new way, between a person and a title. We want to create a great love story. We want you to love what you watch.’ 

As ever, the Internet and the people who control is are conspiring to give us all more of the same. We see things that companies think we will like based on what we’ve already watched, read or liked.  It’s for this reason that every time I was a shitty rom-com on a hormonal hangover I log back into Netflix to be offered more of the same. How do I know what else is out there, what I haven’t yet discovered if I’m only being shown things which bear a resemblance to stuff I’ve already consumed?

What if I watch a harrowing but important documentary which I neither ‘like’ or ‘dislike’, what button do I press for that? 

Indeed, the problem with the Internet’s like or dislike, thumbs up or thumbs down binary is that it presents us with only two options when human emotion actually exists on a vast, vibrant and varied spectrum. Perhaps this simplified language has become the ‘lingo of the internet’ but it doesn’t have to be the language we all speak. 

The gladiatorial playground nature of online life these days can hardly be any surprise when such an atmosphere is woven into the very fabric of social media. 

The thumb, as a signifier, goes way back. It predates the world wide web by a long way. In Ancient Rome it was the means by which crowds would pass judgement on a defeated gladiator after a fight, the thumbs down was a signal that he would be condemned to death, the thumbs up that he should be spared.  

The trouble with the ubiquity of thumbs up and thumbs down as a means of rating the world around us is this: it both reflects and influences our mentality. Binaries which only present two diametrically opposed options might seem to be ‘simple’ and ‘clear’ and that’s the problem. It suggests that everything is a zero-sum game, reducing critical thought and discussion to, well…nil. 

To like and dislike are emotional reactions, we often feel them instantly when we encounter something, whether that be another person, a new food, a film, song, book or news article. It’s a judgement, often snap, but it’s understanding why we feel that way about something that’s important. You know, engaging in critical thinking, meaningful discussion and analysis. 

Today we are asked to rate everything. The films we watch, the things our peers say on Facebook, the pictures they post on Instagram, the service we get from our takeaways and the experience of taking a taxi. Love it or hate it, the thumbs up/thumbs down rating system seems to be here to stay, like it or lump it. But that doesn't mean we should blindly accept the 'lingo of the internet' as the only way of quantifying human experience because...Black Mirror. 

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