5 golden stars on a blue and pink background
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

My Rock Bottom with Star Ratings

An Unrated Tale of Rating Addiction

Chris Kiess
6 min readJul 31, 2023

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I don’t know how it got as far as it did. It was just a little bit when I started — a review here, a star rating there — something to get me through that next product purchase or dinner with friends. At some point in time, it all got away from me and I couldn’t control it anymore. Before I knew it, my life had turned into one big rating system, an algorithmic odyssey driven by the desires of unknown reviewers across the globe.

Whenever the topic of dinner came up, whenever I saw a new product in a store window or a new movie or television series was released, I’d search for a rating. When I had to switch primary care physicians, I didn’t ask a friend or family for a recommendation. I pulled out my phone to search for ratings.

It got so bad, that I’d find myself in some exotic location unable to enjoy the beauty — eyes and nose buried in my phone, trying to find the highest-rated restaurant or spa or tourist attraction. If I couldn’t find anything with a decent rating, I’d declare a town to be shit. I’d then fall into a depressed heap, announcing there was nothing to do or be had in this place.

It started with 3 stars. Right in the middle (because 2 wasn’t enough). But it wasn’t long before 3 stars wouldn’t do it either. I needed more. This was back before the half-star or “tenth-star” rating system emerged. So, I had to bump it up — all the way to 4.

That was when the real trouble started. It was too much too soon.

I don’t need to go on because you know how this ends, right? A 4 became a 4.5, which became a 4.6 and so on. Today, if I find a 4.9-star product, I might be happy. But it’s more likely I’ll wonder why a tenth of a point was shaved off.

A 4.9? What’s wrong with this product?!?

It all happened so quickly. Soon, it seemed every decision in my life had to have a rating behind it. If I couldn’t find a rating, I’d panic, becoming little more than a paralytic mass of quivering flesh.

I don’t know how I managed to function as long as I did. There were several moments when I thought I’d hit rock bottom.

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Chris Kiess

Healthcare User Experience Designer in the Greater Chicago area