We’d be delighted if you could take a few minutes ..
Have you noticed that we are now constantly being asked to evaluate every one of our activities that involve another party? Just exactly when did this creeping malaise first rear its ugly head?
These requests seem to pop up everywhere; halfway through an internet search for something a little window pops up and offers me the option to participate in a survey, always somehow with the implication that if I refuse I’ll be missing out on something really special.
Whichever organisation I choose to interact with, none of them seem prepared any longer to deal with the matter and then put it to rest. Whether it is a query with the insurance company or an update from the mobile phone provider, my views on their performance and associated rating have now become apparently of prime significance to them. The survey requests seem to come in two formats; either I am asked to complete some salient details in relation to my age and demographic details so as to help hone their customer profiling, or I am grading someone’s performance. And if I comply and complete the survey, exactly what will they do with the findings? I feel that the medium used for many of these, SurveyMonkey, is most aptly named – just who will be monkeying around with my data?
Of course, being surveyed has its more profound implications. The Mass Observation project that was set up in the 1930s was intended to find out more about the everyday lives of ordinary people in Britain and generated a wealth of fascinating information and data. Yet at times in did take on a different connotation when the people who volunteered for the project found themselves commenting on neighbours and friends as well as their own lives.
Recently, the 21st century version of mass observation was well and truly exposed thanks to the combined efforts of Assange and Snowden and selected members of the Fourth Estate. Perhaps that is why I feel so irritated about all these attempts to document my opinions, now that I really know what’s going on.
I think the nadir was reached the other day when I popped into M&S to buy a friend some chocolates. Total value of purchase: £5.50. I handed over the cash and the sales assistant handed me a receipt. To give her credit, she hesitated before saying, ‘My details are on the back of the receipt, so if you would care to go online and rate my performance today..’
Using all my powers of self-restraint, I gently informed her that I had better things to do with my time than comment online on how well I had been sold a box of chocs.