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Or Maybe You’re Not as Good as You Think – Haters, Critics, and Knowing the Difference

The recent post about George Lucas and fan feedback is still stuck in my head.

So today I want to discuss a trait I see in many bloggers, Facebook users, and Tweeters, or whatever we’re calling them now.

I want to talk about the tendency to blame any and all criticism on “haters.” Oh, and that’s HL Mencken in the photo.  A savage critic of the best kind, but no hater.

From Urban Dictionary:

Hater (n.):

A person that simply cannot be happy for another person’s success.  Instead of giving acknowledgement in courtesy, a hater often pursues his/her point by exposing a flaw in the target subject.  Hating, the result of being a hater, is not exactly jealousy. The hater doesn’t really want to be the person he or she hates, rather the hater wants to knock somelse [sic] down a notch

First, here are some examples of what I consider haters, given the definition above:

To pick an easily verifiable example: Someone puts a video of a deadlift on youtube.  Comments vary from “Very strong” to “your form sucks” to “I can do more.”  And then there’s stuff like this:

  • That’s gay
  • You look weird
  • I would not consider you to be a very smart person

And those comments don’t go any further.  They are there to wound and irritate.

They are comments from people who weren’t going to say anything good about a video or blog post no matter what.  I consider a hater to be someone who just wants to say something nasty.  Trying to placate them is not worth the effort.

The response “haters gonna hate” has become the trendy response, often accompanied by a sassy GIF of someone strutting their stuff.

When reasoning with someone is not an option, “haters gonna hate” seems as appropriate a response as any.  Forget them and move on.

But it can be overused.

In my opinion, the blogosphere and Twitterverse, to use two obnoxious terms, are pretty cheerful places.  And one of the easiest ways to feel good about yourself online is to go to someone else’s blog and tell them that they’re great.

Many times, they’ll come right back to your blog and tell you the same thing.  Maybe you’re both right.  Maybe you’re both wrong.  The point is, you can always find someone to make you feel good about yourself.

There are so many ways to have your work validated online.  Likes, retweets, positive blog comments, pingbacks, amazon reviews, emails from readers, etc.  If you’re used to being fawned over by your audience, you might start to think you can do no wrong.  It’s happened to me now and then.

When I’m in that state, any negative response to anything I do or say is jarring. And when I start to think I’m as great as someone else tells me I am, that’s when I’m tempted to attribute any or all criticisms to “haters.”

Criticism is invaluable and should be sought.  I need people who will call me on my BS.  Vague, nasty, hate-for-its-own sake is useless and should rightly be ignored (easier in theory than in practice).

But legitimate, negative criticism is a chance to learn something, or at least to reevaluate and reinforce your own positions.

From a post on dealing with Haters:

It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do–Tim Ferriss

It can be tempting to decide that anyone who says anything less-than-glowing about you or your endeavors just “doesn’t get it.” Maybe they are jealous.  Maybe they do need to build themselves up just by dragging someone else down .

Or maybe not.

The truth is that Tim, you, me, and anyone else out there is capable of producing substandard work, or acting unethically, or thinking they’re bigger and better than they are.

I want to know when I’m wrong.  I want to know if I could be doing something better.  I want to know if I’m clinging to assumptions that aren’t useful to me.  Enter the critics.

It’s obviously an individual, case-by-case situation.  Only you can know who your critics are, and who your haters are.  I would encourage you not to immediately file any and all dissent under “haters” and people who “just don’t get it.”

I’ll be doing the same.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Spencer August 31, 2012, 9:19 am

    As you know, I have a very low tolerance for those that hate for the pure sake of hating. And I don’t really care what the underlying motivations are: low self-esteem, daddy/mommy issues, not enough coffee/sleep, rogue cantankerousness.

    But, and in a weird way this relates to both the hater and the hated, I have come to appreciate the role that subjectivity plays, in all of life, but particularly in creative/artistic endeavors.

    I absolutely agree with you, some people hate just because they want to hate. And I think we can all agree that these people suck. But I think other people can passionately hate your stuff, not because it is inherently or objectively bad in some universal, in-a-vacuum sense, but because it is, to them, subjectively, terrible. Which is not to say that your stuff is objectively bad. Yet also not to say that they are, in some irrefutable way, wrong.

    Let’s say, just for an easy example, you take Twilight. You know I don’t love it. But that has more to do with my personal taste than it does with the quality of the book/story/writing. And I really do believe that. If Stephenie Meyer is proud of it, which I think she is, and people love it, which I think some really do, then how is that any more wrong or right than my personal opinion.

    Now, I like praise as much as the next person, probably more than a lot of people, and I do personally think that most of the stuff I write, provided that I have put some thought and effort into it, is pretty freaking good. And I don’t know if that can ever be write or wrong. It’s just opinion. Same for what other people think about it. Some people might genuinely hate my very best stuff, and if that’s how they really feel, then what can I do?

    There was a time when I felt compelled to point out weaknesses or deficiencies in other people’s writing/presentation/thought processes. For the most part, those days are gone. Now sure, if I catch someone hating for the pure sake of hating, and come across something they have written or said that has any room for criticism, there is a good chance I am going to ruin their day. But I think those people have it coming.

    I’d like to say I would rather have honest criticism than dishonest praise. But all I really want is honest praise. Anything else people can keep to themselves. But then, I’m sensitive.