We are at a critical point in history. Not just because of definitive tension and stress, but how people and businesses are choosing to respond to it. This is not just an expected, cliché and pedestrian take on the state of the world that every startup is surely leaning into. At least not for me.
My collegiate background in geography and sustainability has given me the opportunity to see systems, behaviour, history, culture, and models overlayed and intertwined. We are trained to see and predict, analyze, and then go observe some more. They call it knowing “the why of where”. Growing up before the internet certainly help to contextualize the “why of what” that led me to create Feast Your Eyes. What is causing society to break apart? What, really, has changed?
I have a few ideas, and I believe a few solutions. Non-political directions that I believe would make the world better if more companies and consumers would consider them.
Simply, people are afraid. Consciously and subconsciously, conditioned to be afraid of the unknown, unfamiliar, and possible discomfort. Your average consumer is groomed to find their own opinions and every thought as important, and wanted by others, which is honestly bizarre. We are used to hearing but not listening. Our attention spans are measured in seconds instead of hours. We know we are being sold like cattle, led like sheep, sold to like we have an unlimited American Express, and that we hate overt advertising but stressfully see ads every few seconds and even wear them on our bodies. We know we are unhappy, miss the carefree way of life we had before we got so stressed about appearances and products, and yet cannot stop.
Genuine life experiences, instead of manufactured ones, are deep down what we want. An authentic life in authentic places with authentic people.
Almost all businesses spend a lot of time trying to hook in customers, flatter and engage them, massage their ego, and keep their money rolling in forever. This results in cheap tricks at best, and very unethical practices at worst. Social media is just a dual data collection effort attached to a fishing line. Social media has infiltrated every business plan as a main way of keeping people on their website or platform, even if it isn’t needed and is in fact extremely harmful for society. We stopped listening to our own eyes, gut instincts, and to professionals, and started strongly factoring in faceless reviews and opinions from who the hell knows into our decision making. People believe anything below a 4 star rating is going to be questionable quality and avoid at all costs, no matter how 2.5 stars is average, and average can mean fine. Ratings are arbitrary in real life, based on completely subjective experiences of ranging importance and questionable criteria. Ratings probably keep you out of many amazing restaurants. Some amazing family businesses have closed because of people behind a keyboard, and the restaurant review websites are fine with this.
All that aside, we used to pick restaurants without anxiously checking reviews and star ratings. It was okay if we had a decent lunch and went about our day. Most places and experiences are average in the distribution, and perfectly suitable as a place to enjoy. You’ve probably been to places that you liked quite a bit, but if you looked at the reviews, would have avoided, or it might have not even come up in search at all. Modern food apps all hinge on this fear and manipulation as a selling technique, that their user experience is hinged on ratings, reviews, featured advertising, and social media. I don’t think they will willingly put it down, as they are as addicted as their users, even if it isn’t helpful or good for the direction of the world. This preoccupation with opinion, self-importance, social media, and ratings is actually quite nefarious. It’s time for us to divorce this from our digital lives to try and make our real ones a lot nicer. As a concept from Clayton M. Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma, giving the people “what they want” has resulted in most tech companies missing the forest through the trees- we don’t need more reviews, and the absolute obsession with reviews, social media, and ratings is unhealthy. I hope that with Feast Your Eyes, a trend away from these destructive elements takes hold, and people realize all the ways social media infiltration is toxic and to turn away from any service that is not healthy for them personally, and their communities. Every successive generation growing up conditioned by this system is way, way worse off because of it, but it’s not too late to reverse course.
We need information presented smartly and cleanly, and to empower our users in their searches instead of bogging them down with ads and clutter. We need to help push design towards helping the user see and analyze content and make their own judgements instead of relying on reviews and social media.
Feast Your Eyes is being built with this in mind. No cheap tricks. We will challenge the way diners see the search process, and how restaurants thing about presenting their food and venue to the masses. Stay tuned.