Criticism Is Good

Over the last few days I’ve seen several “social media” figureheads take a distinctly anti-social approach to feedback they’ve received online. I take a pretty dim view of that response to criticism:

Criticism is good

Criticism is good

If you’re someone who experiments on the leading edge of something, be prepared for criticism. What’s more, remember that criticism isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Criticism does not equal attack

Criticism can be constructive. The fact that someone disagrees with you or suggests a different approach doesn’t mean they’re attacking you. Instead of reacting negatively, which is easy to do, try thinking about what you can take away from the criticism. Yes, there are trolls out there who go out of their way to disagree in a destructive way. However, most people don’t do that.

Every time you dismiss feedback, you lower yourself in the eyes of not only the person who gave that feedback but also in the eyes of anyone else who is considering giving more feedback.

One of the big problems in the social media “fishbowl” is that people spend way too much time agreeing with each other, without thinking objectively about what they’re agreeing with.

There’s nothing wrong with agreeing with someone if they’ve made a good point. If you think they’re off-base, however, you do them and yourself a disservice by failing to air your views.

I’ll occasionally pop up on sites like PR Squared, PR Works, Social Media Explorer or Jennifer Leggio’s ZDNet blog. If you read over time, you’ll see I occasionally disagree with them. I don’t do it because they’re always wrong, or because I’m out to attack them. I do it because:

  • I have immense respect for Todd, Dave, Jason and Jennifer (and other people, too);
  • They put themselves out there and give their own views on controversial topics;
  • They react appropriately to constructive feedback;
  • This is meant to be a conversation.

Reacting badly to criticism has another effect besides just lowering your credibility: it discourages future feedback. I read a lot of blogs, and I rarely nod wholeheartedly at everything I read. However, I simply won’t comment on numerous sites because I know that my feedback will be met with “well then go read someone else’s site.” I may like the person; I may know even know them but I still won’t comment if I know the reaction will be inappropriate.

The bottom line

If you don’t want to hear dissenting opinions, turn your comments off. Quit using social media tools in an anti-social way.

Alternatively, acknowledge that people will sometimes disagree with you and that that’s ok. Be a grown-up.

Dave Fleet
EVP Digital at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.