Tell Us What You Think

Ahh, surveys! Enough already.

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Photo: CA Hawthorne

In our information overload age surveys are everywhere in one form or another. I walk to my mailbox (yes, the physical kind) and there they are. I open my online mail and there they are. They pop up on my phone from those I receive services. Check the news online and its laden with articles about the latest polls, which are another form of surveying. It’s difficult to visit a site without a barrage of requests to take time for their latest survey. On social media they’re as thick as webs at a spider convention. Visit even the most innocent sites online and they’re often tucked into a corner somewhere. Often they’re disguised as How Are We Doing? or some innocent question where there are Yes or No buttons. Want to guess where those take you?

There was a time when those online were a fun novelty…like 15 years ago.

Oh wow, I get to share my opinion.

My voice will be heard!

Someone cares what I think.

Yeah, I know, someone’s probably reading this and thinking, Wow, she’s paranoid… Actually, it’s just that I learned how all this works when I was earning a business degree with extensive work in communications. Admittedly, marketing has always been about manipulation, so that’s nothing new (Buy while supplies last!). It’s also about psychology (try to locate a clock in a department store). Yet, I’ll also admit to a fascination with the process even while they’re trying to trap me.

H’m, this is new…

Oh, how clever…

In recent years their proliferation has increased my irritation since what I’m really doing is providing a free service to them (like self check-out at the grocery store) even through they spin it the other way around. Seriously, do they give me cash? Nope. Discounts? Rarely, unless it’s a minimal markdown that’s virtually worthless. They will, though, give me the opportunity to provide them with my email address. Oh, you clever, clever marketers!

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Photo: CA Hawthorne

What I get in return is the assurance that the next time I encounter the company they’ll be better equipped to gain the upper hand based on the information I provide. After all, we tell them where we go, what we do, and what we like (which is actually our weaknesses). That’s the equivalent of Superman announcing to the bad guys that, gee, he just happens to have a kryptonite pebble in his shoe.

Are people going to cease to take surveys? I doubt it. What’s important is making it a truly conscious decision and understanding that there are agendas behind all surveys, even the most innocent. Perhaps they want the data to show support for their position. Perhaps the survey is leading you directly down the road to purchasing a product. Perhaps they’re trying to better understand how to manipulate you into purchasing their product in the future. (Please fill out this brief survey so we can better serve you.)

At worst, surveys are underhanded manipulation. At best they’re free data collection so the gatherer can better manipulate you later. Think of Big Brother with a smile and a slick marketing campaign. If trolls are the vipers of the internet then surveys are becoming the pesky mosquitoes of the internet. Mosquitoes with a hidden agenda beyond just drawing some blood. Mosquitoes who now know where to be and what time to be there when you aren’t wearing repellent.

3 Replies to “Tell Us What You Think”

  1. Pingback: Tell Us What You Think | Christina Anne Hawthorne

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