I remember when I first discovered the Internet.
There was a cafe in my small town that had four computers and for about $5 an hour, you could browse the world wide web. I spent about ten minutes downloading pictures of my favourite band at the time, Rancid. I watched the pics load pixel by pixel. There were no comments, no arguments—just information on the band.
Fast forward twenty six years. I look at Rancid’s YouTube channel and listen to their new songs. They’re not as raw and catchy as the old ones, in my opinion. I wonder what the other people are saying, so I scroll down the comments:
“Awesome songs. Best yet!”
I don’t really agree that they are the best yet, and reflexively go to add my two cents, but hold off, deciding to read what others have written. These aren’t verbatim, but close enough.
“You call this best yet? You must smoke crack. Rancid has gone way downhill. There are practically no ska songs. They’ve sold out.”
“Rancid sucks now!”
“Old man, rich man punk. R.I.P Rancid.”
And the arguments and vitriol go on for another 692 comments. I can’t help but think about the singer, Tim Armstrong, going through these reviews and wondering if they get to him.
But that’s the age we live in. Where everyone has a voice. Every angry, bored, lonely critic in the world can absorb someone else’s work, and in an instant, spit out their opinion.
I still don’t care for their new work, but I admire their tenacity, talent, and work ethic. I’m not a professional musician, so who am I to judge their work if millions of other fans still love it?
Do I think Tim Armstrong really cares what the Internet commenters think? It’s doubtful. A man who has toured the world, written hundreds of songs that have brought joy to countless fans, who has probably slept with a thousand groupies, raised money for charities, and even owns his own record label. Does he care if someone thinks his new album is the worst yet?
Here’s the thing about critics:
Critics are people who can’t do the job.
They may play in a band, but they aren’t signed, they aren’t touring, they aren’t making a living. They may criticize books, or art, or ideas, because they know deep down, they aren’t capable of doing the job. They don’t create to their full potential and they know it. This is why they are critics.
Some of them serve a positive purpose: to help you see the weak spots in your work. But the vast majority are just idiots with keyboards and their opinions do not matter. As long as you are working to improve your work…their criticisms do not matter.
So what do the haters want?
They want you to shut up.
If you want true criticism, seek those who have created what you seek to create. And no matter what they tell you, thank them. Seek those with an open mind, who aren’t afraid to offend your fragile ego, and whether you agree with them or not, thank them.
As for your own inner hater, ask yourself is it the work you dislike, or the ideology behind it? Mein Kampf had very valid criticisms, as it’s a book that lead to millions of deaths and deserved to be analyzed. But did it stop Hitler from trying to conquer the world? No. If anything it inspired him to do so.
All controversy does is bring attention to the ideologies we despise.
When people criticize my work, my books, my videos…I listen, sure. But do I really care? No. Because I made something. I did the work. I put it out there. And I’ll do it again, and again, and again.
The more hate and criticism I receive the better. It just makes me work harder.
And if they become repeatedly annoying or nonsensical, I block or ignore them. If I change my mind on an idea or something I wrote, I can always write a new philosophy, or edit the old work. I am the creator.
There’s nothing that the lazy, the failures, the negative people of the world hate more than to see others succeed. To see people create while they merely consume and criticize.
The Internet has been kind to me. It allows me to get my work out to a wide audience, to find beta readers for my books, to find fans and clients of my coaching. So a little criticism from mentally ill commenters is a tiny price to pay.
Man can find purpose in creation, and destruction. But to merely consume and criticize is the life of a slug, a bottom crawler.
For those who love to criticize, to troll, to mock and condemn, my favourite philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has a nice quote for you:
“For those who fight against monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster himself.”
If you’re an artist, an author, a musician, an entrepreneur or a creator of any type, and you’re not receiving harsh criticism…your work is not good enough. It is not impactful, or meaningful, or polarizing, or true.
So embrace the critics. You don’t have to agree with them, you don’t even have to grant them a reply. If they are distracting you from your work you can block them. But realize that most Internet critics are people who can’t do the job. They don’t have the capacity to understand the job, or the focus and work ethic to do it themselves.
But you do.
And you should be your harshest critic.