How to deal with online haters
“It is a well-known fact that we see the faults in other’s works more readily than we do in our own.” Pablo Picasso
Sharing your work with a multitude of strangers online can mean encountering unexpected negativity that you wouldn’t normally get in face-to-face situations. While it’s true there’ll always be a percentage who ‘don’t get’ your work, some behave in ways online that they wouldn’t dare in everyday encounters. The big question is though, how can we as artists deal with these often unwarranted comments?
What you’ll learn in this article
The anonymity of the internet has heightened the freedom of creative expression but with the removal of responsibility and human connection this anonymity has led to a culture of criticism that sometimes goes too far. In this article we’ll take a look at how to identify the type of criticism you’re dealing with and the most sensible ways to respond to harsh feedback and deal with online haters.
“To escape criticism – do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard
At some point in our lives we all encounter criticism – whether it be about our appearance, our opinions or our work, there will always be an opposing position. It’s just a fact of human nature. To some artists a biting comment against their work can feel like a personal attack. Steven Pressfield, author of the War of Art, reminds us that:
“The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her.”
We need to learn to expect a reaction to our work – after all making someone feel something through your art is a great achievement and a testament to its success – even if that reaction is an unfavourable one. Of course the natural response to criticism is to try and win the person round but an artist who wants to be liked by everyone will end up creating diluted meaningless work.
Ultimately the people who don’t ‘get it’ just don’t matter, it’s the people who do that count. The highest achievers in any field are universally the most criticised. And, as they tell you at art school, criticism isn’t always bad, especially if we can learn something from it.
Understanding your critic
The first rule in productively handling criticism is to identify the type of comment you’ve received:
Someone has raised a genuine problem that has been clearly presented in a reasonable manner. Although they can be painful to receive, they can also give us an insight into areas that need improvement.
An individual opinion that may or may not help improve your artwork. These can be useful and will often come from contemporaries working in the same space but are slightly more complex to deal with.
An unwarranted attack without any basis or reasoning.
The best ways to react
Now you’ve understood the type of feedback you’ve been given, you’re in a much better place to respond to it. As difficult as it may be, always remember that your response should be a positive one – negativity breeds negativity and getting into an argument that the whole world can see will only serve to make both you and your detractor look bad. This unfortunate reaction from an author to a bad review highlights this point.
Responding to a justified issue
Whether we like it or not sometimes your critic will be right. This type of criticism always deserves a quick positive response and is often the result of a misjudgment on your part. Explain the reasoning behind your decision and be grateful to them for bringing the problem to your attention.
Taking constructive criticism
Again this requires a response. Most of the time we’ll probably disagree with what’s been suggested or pointed out but sometimes we may learn from it. By responding in a positive and open manner you’ll build stronger relationships with your audience and create a conversation around your work.
It’s often best to sleep on constructive criticism before responding so as not to act defensively. When we give ourselves time and space away from the problem we can come back to it with a more objective and considered opinion.
Responding to trolling/spam
This type of negative comment isn’t feedback, it’s designed to get a reaction from you. These types of comments don’t require a response and are often best deleted if possible. The most effective way to counter-attack a hater of this nature is to make it clear that their attack has had absolutely no impact.
The unfortunate reality of sharing your work with the world is that the more people who see it, the more criticism you will inevitably receive. It’s important to keep this in perspective though, always remaining positive and focusing instead on the impact that your work will have and not seeking the approval of others.
Have you ever been subject to negativity online? If the answer is yes, how did you deal with it? Let us know by leaving a comment below.