My pandemic comfort? Google reviews. They can be as compelling as any TV drama | Louise Benson

The comments aren’t just transactional – they can reveal more about how we connect than the curated feeds of social media

Human connection can often be found where you least expect it. Google Maps, started as a straightforward navigation tool, has become in recent years an unlikely treasure trove of humour and intrigue. With many businesses in my area closed for much of the pandemic, I took to exploring them through the reviews that others had left online. I have traversed foreign cities from my sofa, idly dreaming of future holidays via a one-line description of the perfect snack bar.

From reviews of a local bistro to the dry cleaner, I have stumbled on snatches of city life that seem as compelling as any sitcom. Entire sagas are played out in a few sentences, and I have read elaborate tales of love, fights, breakups and makeups. “The owners created a drama around them, and chose us to express all their violence,” begins one particularly ominous review of a bar, which ends with: “We spent the night in hospital and my friend had to get surgery to fix his nose.”

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