As Freud pointed out, people spend a shocking amount of time in a continuous cycle seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Our internal monologue is but a continuous questioning -- how am I doing, and what should I be doing next? When we meet with friends and family, in between the great stories and moments of laughter and levity-- we ask how they're doing, how that food is, what are you going to order, how was that movie, what's new, and so on.
In essence, when we ask each other how things were, we're comparing our experiences. How was that steak? Great? Awesome, I'm going to have that too. The Other Guys was a great movie? Sweet, I have to see it. It sucked? Thanks for letting me avoid that one. (It was awesome by the way)
Even when we watch movies, we experience, temporarily, the lives of others. We learn not just through the stories and experiences of people we know but also through the media we consume. Thanks to the amazing existence of mirror neurons
, as we see and hear things happen to others, our brains fire up the same patterns they would had they happened directly to us.
As it turns out, our brains and minds are elaborate engines for processing information and experiences. That goes for everything from websites to a good meal at a restaurant. So it's natural that we want to avoid pain and seek pleasure through foreknowledge by people we trust.
But that's what Yelp is for. And the web. And Google. The arc of history is that of an ever-increasing amount of empathy -- and the web is merely the latest and greatest enabler in that. The beginning of this arc? Verbal language. Written language. Scrolls. Codexes. The printing press. Paperback books. Paperback computers. And now the infinitely vast and instantaneous Internet.
At first blush, the now-dominant social way we use the Internet seems shallow. Who cares what movie so-and-so watched? Or that they ate at that fancy new restaurant and it sucked. Why should it appear on my Facebook feed at all? But we should care. We do care. It allows us to live better lives. If there is less friction in knowledge, then the good restaurants and the good movies get the attention they deserve. Bad service is penalized. People don't get ripped off so often. Because a durable public channel for feedback exists, restaurants and services can get better.
Less spit in coffee, more awesomeness. We each have a voice in this, and if we pay into the system, we help each other live better... One blog post or Yelp review at a time.