As many have said, we live in a very divisive culture. I'm not sure if it's always been this way, but it's certainly that way right now. Left or Right. Black or White. Liberal or Conservative. Right or Wrong. On side or the other with no room for anyone to be in between. No room for ambiguity. No room for indecision. We're just not comfortable with it.
I'm sure that at least some of this attitude has been adopted from the press, since controversy sells. People getting along is not a story; that doesn't happen till they take up sides and start throwing bricks at each other. If you want to sell things, it's a good tactic.
And Amazon knows this.
I don't know how many of you pay attention to the rating systems on the various sites on which you may be rating things, but they are not all the same. In fact, most of them go something like this:
5 -- I loved it!
4 -- I really liked it.
3 -- I liked it.
2 -- I didn't like it.
1 -- I hated it!
Goodreads has a more positive slant on it:
2 -- It was okay.
1 -- I didn't like it.
There's no room for hate there.
Basically, though, most sites offer "like" as the default giving you much more room to rate things positively than negatively. If you're paying attention. What this means is that most sites have a "top heavy" rating system that's geared toward generating positive ratings and reviews.
Looking at Goodreads more closely, what we have is a system that is designed to get ratings of 3, 4, and 5. 2s should be virtually non-existent, leaving 1s as the only real option for an actual negative review or rating.
Why do I say 2s should be non-existent? Because most people most of the time do not have an actual "it was okay" reaction to things. They like things or they don't like things. There are very few "I could take it or leave it"s.
Which is what makes Amazon's rating system so interesting. It has that "it was okay" right in the middle.
5 -- I love it
4 -- I like it
3 -- It's okay
2 -- I don't like it
1 -- I hate it
So, when you look at Amazon reviews, you get high numbers on both ends and almost non-existent numbers in the middle, because the system is designed that way. It wants to pit the 1s against the 5s, because that's what draws attention to products.
As someone who does a fair amount of reviews on Amazon, I have seen a lot of this confrontation first hand. For instance, there is a strong group of Marvel-haters out there. So, if a post a review for a Marvel movie, it is sure to immediately get "unhelpful" votes (my review for Guardians of the Galaxy didn't receive the normal deluge of negative votes when I posted, although, still, the first vote was negative).
What it boils down to is that Amazon doesn't want ambiguous ratings or reviews. Amazon wants "I loved this!" or "I hated this!" When you can shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, it was okay, I guess," no one is going to want to take a look at the product. Whatever the product. I love or a hate, though, will get some attention.
And what's my point with all of this?
The first thing is this: When you're rating things, make sure you pay attention to the rating system you're using. Just to give you an example, I was rating/reviewing some things recently, and I was on Goodreads leaving my stuff there. The particular story I was dealing with got a 3 on Goodreads because "I liked it." When I switched over to Amazon, I was sort of on autopilot, and I gave the story a 3 there, too, which was not accurate. On Amazon, I needed to leave a 4. It was a couple of days before I noticed what I'd done and went back and fixed it. It's just something to be aware of.
The other thing is... well, I'm not sure. I mean, I am sure, but I'm not sure (I'd give that a 3). If you're looking at selling things (like books), it seems that a way to do that is to generate some love/hate around it. That's what Amazon seems to think at any rate. And I've seen that work in actual practice. I don't know, exactly, how I would say to go about doing this, but there probably are ways. For one thing, though, as authors, it may not be in our best interests to be getting all upset about reviews on the negative end of the spectrum. I mean, it's never in our best interest to act out over negative reviews, but it might be even more than that. I think the real key is to learn how to exploit the reviews on either end of the rating scale and make them work in our favor. I'm just not sure how, yet.