Can We Really Trust Strangers: Using Social Media to get Advice on Big Life Events

I’ll admit that I’ve heard about how companies are using social media to engage with customers. I’ve also seen customers taking out their frustrations with companies on social media. However, up until about a month ago, I never really used social media for getting any advice on any big life decisions. I used it once in a while to supplement the decision-making process, but I mainly relied on other sources.

Last month, I decided that I was going to plan a trip to Europe for this coming summer. I had a lot of questions. How much was this going to cost? Where should I go? Is it best to go alone or with a group? How much time should I allocate? The questions kept swirling around in my head, and I must say it kind of made a fun trip appear intimidating at first. In order to find the answers to all of these questions, I knew I had to do a lot of research, but then came one of the hardest questions to answer: Where to start my research?

The first thing I did was google “Trip to Europe”. This obviously was a pretty ridiculous effort on my part, but hey it got the ball rolling. It brought me to a few websites that were informative, some more than others. This at least started me down the road of researching for my trip, but then I came to another big issue: what advice can I actually trust? If a big website really talked up a certain destination, how was I supposed to know if the website was paid to promote that place or not? Also, what information was the author going off of? Had they been there themselves or were they just writing a piece based on what they had heard from sources.

After a few days of researching, I had enough of reading articles and web pages and decided to give myself a break, so I looked up travel advice videos on YouTube. On YouTube I found a plethora of travel advice videos made by people from all sorts of different backgrounds and life experiences, and it was at this moment that I realized just how social media can contribute to a big decision in my life. I found the videos made by these users to be more informative and realistic than those corporate sites that I was reading before. Social media allowed everyday users to write, video, and photograph their experiences from their own angles and vantage points.

It was nice to watch a bunch of videos about different travel vloggers and hear about their first-hand experience and advice. I was able to see what items they brought, where they recommended visiting, what they didn’t recommend, it was all there! I was able to really get a feel for how this person was based on the type of videos that they put out (obviously I realize that they are still complete strangers, so I took their advice with a grain of salt, but I found that I could get a feel for the type of traveler that they were).

I found that a lot of the vloggers were very good about talking when they were sponsored by a company and were promoting their products because of it (protip: if they mention a company by name and have a link to a few of their products in the comments, then they are probably sponsored). Even if I found a certain piece of advice to be a bit suspect, I could read the comments or watch other videos made by other YouTubers to see if they had the same opinion as the vlogger. The one thing that I took away from the social media research was that I felt like I was getting the better context for the advice that I was getting compared to the information that I was reading on the corporate sites. This really gave me a confidence boost that I was making an informed decision when it came time to spend money on the trip.

The one big piece of advice that I will give others about using social media as a decision-making tool is to take the advice with a grain of salt and do not rely on just one bad/good review to make a decision. Some people have one bad experience with a company and they may just go off on them because of it. Make sure that you read and watch as much about others’ experiences as possible, and then aggregate all of the opinions to inform your own. Also, read about the person’s background and read their reasoning for having the opinion that they have. This is where the true strength of social media comes into play; you can really hear out someone’s thought process and you can compare their thought process to your own. You can also build up or tear down their credibility in your head by reading the other content that they have created. You can often see a pattern if someone is a constant complainer or if they’re too positive and not giving the honest truth.

An example of why you should listen to someone’s reasoning is in the video that follows. It shows a woman who bought a very popular travel bag that has a lot of positive reviews on youtube called the Osprey Farpoint 40 (Here is a link to all of the youtube reviews about it: In the video, she claims that despite the positive reviews, she does not like the bag because she cannot fill it up with as much stuff as she wants. In my opinion, she is overpacking one compartment, and in the video, you can hear her say “I gotta admit, the zippers are beasts”. Therefore, even in a negative review, I heard her reasoning and took it as a recommendation to buy the bag because it had strong zippers.



Obviously, I have found social media very useful for planning a big trip. Tell me in the comments about your opinion on using social media to get advice on big decisions! Have you ever done it before? If you did, how did it work out for you?

Facebook: Can Facebook make a decision for us?

Twitter: Ever asked a stranger for advice?

2 thoughts on “Can We Really Trust Strangers: Using Social Media to get Advice on Big Life Events

  1. For sure– but not complete strangers- haha. I belong to a couple local parenting and/or buy/sell/trade groups. I do belong to 2 groups– specific to the month my kids were born– so we are more or less in the same stage of kid milestones. We started out as strangers- with only the due date as a common thread. The group for my older child isn’t as active or close as the group for my younger child. A bunch of us actually live in the same area sort of, so we have gotten together a couple times. Neighbourhood moms groups- I don’t know most of the moms personally, but some are probably moms of my kids’ friends. But I have asked for advice– and have found out if a certain sickness is going around. Today I found out that there was a “hold and secure” situation in the schools in our neighbouhood. Would never have known without that network.

  2. I’ve asked for opinions when making large product purchases like dishwashers, fridges and stoves. You have to spend a lot of money for these items and use them almost daily for a long period of time its important to get feedback about them.

    Also, when I was thinking about buying a printing press I kind of crowd sourced information and opinions from Facebook and user groups. I posted pictures of what I was thinking of buying on my Instagram feed, which got a lot of feedback. I was also able to avoid getting a press that would be costly to repair.

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