Next month, the “Language and New Media” special interest group of the British Association of Applied Linguistics will be discussing my forthcoming Discourse, Context & Media article about time references in online reviews. The focus of my research was on how online reviewers make a lot more references to the remote past, compared to the present and the recent past. This is in direct contrast to the strong orientation to “what is happening right now” that is characteristic of many other types of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, blogs). I also found that remote past references tended to rely more on grammatical resources rather than lexical resources — for example, grammatical aspect, prepositional phrases, and adverbial clauses. The reverse is true for present-time references, which are usually conveyed via a single word: now, today, just, etc.
The article’s publisher will make my article freely available online from Nov 23-Dec 8, and I’ll be doing an interview with the group’s convenor on Dec. 8, which will be available as a podcast afterwards. Stay tuned for more details!
A few people have recently asked me if I’ve extended my research to reviews of businesses on Facebook. And my short answer to that question is “no” (for all sorts of reasons) — but since this topic has been coming up a lot in the last few weeks, I’ll admit to being at least a little bit intrigued.
A friend who lives in another state told me about super negative experience she had this year with one of her local financial services businesses. She really wanted to warn others to stay away, but the only review forum she found for this business was on Facebook. After taking a closer look, she discovered a couple of things – 1) all of the reviews were positive, and 2) it was not possible to post an anonymous review. (Obviously, these two phenomena are related.) Now this particular friend is a generally happy, positive person, and one who is not shy about speaking her mind…yet, she didn’t necessarily want to have her offline identity linked via her FB profile to her negative comments about this business. Since it wasn’t possible to post a review anonymously there, she ended up not posting a review on FB.
A group of angry vegans in Ireland have shown much less caution than my friend. When a frustrated restauranteur in Dublin posted a rant on Facebook about how vegan customers were being unreasonable in their expectations, a number of indignant vegans fired back in the reviews section of the restaurant’s FB page. As reported here, the verbal volley between restaurant owner and online vegans continued to escalate on FB, with insults and (pseudo-) death threats growing increasingly more outrageous. And as more and more vegans posted 1-star reviews, more and more supporters of the restaurant posted 5-star reviews. In the end, this story went viral, people all over the world have now heard of this restaurant, and business is booming like never before. Normally, insulting one’s customers online is probably not the best social media strategy for a business to have… but, as this case shows, there are rare instances where this kind of completely-over-the-top behavior leads to an unparalleled level of publicity.