Understanding and Responding to Criticism on Social Media
Most people can post and tweet their criticisms for the world to see on social media, but that doesn’t mean that they should.
As a writer, I try to get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation every time I post my articles on websites and social media. I know that no matter how well thought out and articulate my work is, a negative comment might pop up. If I have made a mistake, a posting that criticizes me may come up in a public forum such Facebook, Google, or Twitter.
Is the criticism constructive or destructive?
Some people who post are strangers to me, but most seem to have my best interests at heart. I appreciate their feedback. I feel a sense of safety because I know I will be advised if my article is unclear or has something needs correction. It is hard not to thump my forehead a few times and wonder how I could have made such a stupid error. Fortunately, the problems are usually quick fixes.
Sometimes, people leaving comments add a few words of praise, which my poor battered soul appreciates. I consider their remarks to be constructive criticism - not social media bashing.
On the other hand, many people use social media sites to judge and put down businesses and other people – especially writers and celebrities. Social media circles refer to these people as “trolls” and to their postings as “trolling.” Social media bashing may take the form of character assassinations, rude content, offensive putdowns, or general craziness.
Reasons people are critical
A blog on Yahoo speculated why so many people seem to love to tear down celebrities on social media and exult in their failures. No matter how much good celebrities do and how much they accomplish career-wise, these facts don’t usually does not show up on social media. Instead, some people will speculate that singers are lip-syching, entering rehab, or tsk-tsk about the so-called monstrosities that celebrities are wearing.
Some reasons why people criticize others on social media:
- An urge to vent all the unhappiness and discontent they are feeling in their lives by projecting their negative baggage on someone else
- To express anger and disillusionment when celebrities fall off a pedestal, revealing imperfections such as marriage failure or substance addition
- Rage their jealousy at people who have what they don’t have such as fame, position, or riches
- A compulsion to overcome low self-esteem by acting superior to others and putting them down
- Feelings of outrage that their core values have been violated and need to be defended, no matter how nonsensical they may be
How to respond when we or our business are victims of social media bashing
- Postings that are offensive, rude, or an obvious bid for attention can be ignored or deleted in some cases. Our first instinct when we see a damaging posting is to delete them.
- Instead of hitting the delete button, making a nasty retort, or taking vengeance for hurt feelings, we should treat people with dignity by politely responding to their posts in most cases.
- A timely response can also stop other critics from jumping on the bashing bandwagon. A quick answer also shows people that we are honest, have integrity, and are willing to be held accountable.
- We can thank people for their feedback, even though we are fuming inside at their effrontery, and tell them that we will consider what they have to say. The main thing people really want to know is whether they are heard.
- We should read postings carefully in order to determine where people are coming from. Sometimes people just want to push their own beliefs and agenda on us and don’t care what we think. If we become defensive and counter all their claims in our answers, these people will become furious and serve up an even worse dose of the same criticism. A timely, neutral response may stop what could become verbal abuse.
- We can express a personal opinion, but arguing with the people posting is fruitless. This is likely to infuriate people and set off a verbal assault.
- Sometimes a non-committal soft answer can calm down irate people and assure them that we will consider their position.
- There will probably be issues in the posting that we should clarify or address. Our answer can be gentle and kind, which is much more effective than nastiness and verbal retaliation.
- We should accept responsibility for areas we have been in the wrong. We can also offer our apologies and say we will investigate and get back to the person, if needed. The conversation can be taken offline by offering people our name and contact information.
- If we have a business, we should create a plan and guidelines for responding to negative posts.
- The best results will come about if we appear to be open to criticism, willing to acknowledge errors and correct them, and open to discussing the situation.
No matter how nasty or out-of-line social media comments are, we can choose to learn from them.
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Carola Finch