It has gotten too easy to be a critic. All you have to do is pop open your computer and have at it. Scroll through your Facebook feed and like or love stuff, read a blog and comment, or watch a Youtube video and give your thumbs up or thumbs down. Or you can grab your phone and heart an Instagram picture, share a Tweet, or rate a restaurant with some stars.
The power is there for you to let your voice be heard. You can have an opinion on a global stage. You can judge and rate and critique others until your fingers wear out. I am all for free speech and customer feedback. I am all for holding people accountable and challenging the status quo. But there is a difference between speaking out against human rights violations and social issues and just being a troll.
The Hidden Troll
You might not even think you are being a troll. Trolls can be super obvious with their nasty comments and dirt flinging. But trolls can show up hidden behind best intentions too. There are some things to consider before we are so eager to dish out the dirt.
Do you remember the saying ‘When pointing the finger there are four fingers pointing back at you?’ It became a saying because there is truth in it. The things that irk us the most about other people are things that we don’t like to see in ourselves. When you get the urge to point the finger, ask yourself what your biting comment might be saying about you. If you take a moment to reflect on your own shortcomings you might not be willing to point out the shortcomings of others.
Jealousy can also rear its ugly head and without careful examination we might not realize that is what is going on. So often when someone is stepping out and doing something new, offering a product, or sharing something bold, our inner troll shows up. We feel compelled to let them know why their ideas aren’t any good, how their product needs work, and how they are going to fail. All of that is usually jealousy. Sure, you might ‘mean well’ and want to help someone avoid falling on their face but more often it is because we are not living up to our own aspirations and we can hardly stand it when someone else is.
And let’s talk about the well meaning criticism. You are sophisticated and articulate. You have decided to send a private email because you know public criticism is troll-like. But have you really considered that just because you have gone private and written a well meaning email that it is really of value? The biggest question we neglect to ask ourselves is ‘if I share this, what do I hope to accomplish and how will the receiver use it?’
An email filled with criticism and an argument about why you are right doesn’t usually help anyone. It might boost your ego but it simply makes the receiver feel small. What good is that? Do we really need any more people shrinking, not sharing their gifts, or trying to innovate? I’d argue that the world will provide enough feedback that you shouldn’t bother adding yours. If a product isn’t awesome, it won’t sell. If a thought is too wild, it won’t get shared. If an idea is too weird, it won’t flourish.
It would be more useful for you to take the time to share things that you do believe in, that you do want to support, that you see are making a difference. Spend your time lifting up greatness and boosting people. Put your scythe away. When you are dishing out criticism ask yourself if you would be willing to eat a helping of it too?