Website encourages dishonest behavior
Social networking sites are veritable goldmines for advertisers. Drawing on the personal information people readily offer on websites like Facebook and Twitter, advertisers create and deploy personalized ads in the hopes that consumers will be drawn in more readily than ever. A new website, Shopularity, takes the partnership between social media and advertising to the logical extreme by doing away with even the facade that users are on the site to do anything but sell themselves. On Shopularity, users compete in writing reviews for different products. Other users vote on these reviews, and the user with the most votes wins a prize in the end. Basically, what Shopularity does is use people to sell products to each other, cutting the marketing middlemen out entirely. It’s a crafty maneuver, one we’re rather uncomfortable with.
On a very practical level, we find it difficult to trust the reviews posted on Shopularity. One has to remember that, in order to elicit these reviews in the first place, the website offers it users prizes. And the prizes aren’t anything to laugh at. According to the Huffington Post, Shopularity gives the winners expensive products, like “iPads or designer handbags.” So this is not a service like Amazon.com, where users who post reviews are doing so with no motive other than expressing their true opinions. On Shopularity, the reviews are posted by people who actively compete to make theirs the biggest and best so they might win. That’s not a source of honest reviews. It’s a place for hyperbole and skewed viewpoints, all in the name of winning the prize.
On a more theoretical level, Shopularity makes us even more unsettled. It encourages users to abandon their personal opinions and shamelessly tout whatever product they need to in order to win a new computer, or what have you. It turns people into mindless advertising machines. There’s no dignity in such conduct — and even less honesty. Shopularity calls itself “a popularity contest, version 2.0,” and that’s a pretty accurate description. Like your average popularity pageant, Shopularity is built on vapidity and flashy looks. If users want to participate, they’re free to do so. But perhaps first they should take a long look at what they’re about to do. Is prostituting yourself out to a company worth it just to win a prize or two? We don’t think so.