Anyone who has ever delved into the murky waters of the comments section of an online platform or gone pages deep into a discussion board will know that negative, critical and often hateful remarks on whatever the subject matter is are ten a penny. Celebrities, public figures and online influencers frequently wax lyrical about the negative commentary they are exposed to on a daily basis and the impact this has on their lives.
Needless to say, online bullying is a serious issue, made more so by the ease with which people can hide their identities and spew vile remarks without immediate consequences. As the use of technology and the social media platforms it facilitates continues to become more ubiquitous, bullying and abuse in the form of brief, typed comments under Instagram pictures and YouTube videos is arguably more prevalent than the more traditional forms of bullying many of us are used to.
The likes of Instagram and YouTube provide users with the option to block and delete any other user who comments on a post if they so wish. There is also a feature that allows a user to filter out any comments that contain a particular word or phrase. As such, if you were to go into the comment section of any popular social media star or celebrity’s Instagram posts, it wouldn’t be particularly surprising to see hundreds or even thousands of glowingly positive comments, full of praise and delight at whatever the post was – a photograph, video, link to a blog post, etc.
How can this possibly be a true reflection of the reality of the public response to a post? How likely is it that every single individual who reads or views a piece of work, be it a photograph, video or written piece, genuinely enjoys and reacts positively to it? The truth is it’s not likely at all, that any and all negative comments may be swiftly deleted by the poster under the guise of removing spiteful, abusive remarks.
I can’t help but wonder if we have blurred the lines between comments of a genuinely malicious, abusive nature and comments that offer an honest, constructive opinion on content that appears online. There is of course no defence whatsoever to using racist, homophobic, sexist or any kind of discriminatory language when commenting on an online post, or insisting on commenting on a person’s physical appearance or speech, or using threats of violence or encouraging people to kill themselves – all of which are found in comments sections constantly.
But photographs, videos, articles and music are all pieces of work which the creator may profit from, or attempt to commercialise in some way. All business are subject to criticism in some form – it’s a way of holding them to a standard of quality, a way of keeping up with competitors, a way of keeping them honest. Business aside, as individuals we grow and improve off the back of constructive criticism, and living in an echo chamber of praise and positivity doesn’t really benefit anybody.
If a candidate attends an interview for a role and the hiring manager gives detailed feedback on what was perhaps not so good about the interview, are we being cruel to pass this onto the candidate? Of course not – now the candidate knows what not to do next time and will be more likely to perform well and secure a role.
Constructive criticism is not abuse or bullying or ‘hate’. It is entirely possible to pass on feedback on something, whether it be an online post, an interview, or even someone’s outfit, without being nasty or vindictive. It is necessary and beneficial and encourages critical thought and discussion. To steal a quote, I found hastily on the Internet, “praise makes you feel good, critique makes you better”.