March 19

Being an Anonymous Critic is the Path of Least Resistance

The other day I received a harsh review about the podcast because I've shared personal challenges and stories with my podcast guests. This listener said he never writes reviews. But he found this so annoying; he felt compelled to write a harsh review.

Critics Math

According to what Jon Acuff all "critics math", 1 critic + 1000 fans = 1 critic. We notice our criticism more than we notice kindness. The harsh review was 1 out of 100's of rave reviews. An inevitable part of being a public figure whose work reaches a lot of people is harsh criticism from people you've never met or never even had a conversation with. Conan talked about this in his interview with Michelle Obama.

We can cater to our critics and water down our work. Or we can decide that it's not for them, we'd be better off losing the listener, subscriber or reader, and focus our energy on serving our true fans. Serving the anonymous critic is a fool's errand for doing creative work.

The internet makes it possible to hide behind a computer, give anonymous feedback, and say the kinds of things we'd never say to someone's face. Rage and anger have become normalized. Gone unchecked, it leads to far worse things than harsh reviews of creative work. It leads to extremism and acts of violence.

While email is less anonymous, it's easy to tear someone to shreds from behind a screen and forget that another person is on the end of the screen. But just because you can be an asshole, it doesn't mean you should. In 10 years of doing creative work on the internet I've never heard anyone say "you know that asshole who sent me a rude email, he's my best friend now." Every email you send, every review you write, and every tweet has an energy to it that you're spreading. And that usually will show up in your life.

Being an anonymous critic is the path of least resistance. Being a prolific creator is the path of most reward.


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