As artists, most of us are sensitive to criticism. We can feel terrified of putting our work out there. Our art can represent the most vulnerable parts of ourselves, and the last thing we may want is to make that available for public consumption. It doesn’t help that we regularly see other creatives be eviscerated online, their art trashed and their humanity hung out to dry.
I’ve heard so many creative types say they want to share their art, but they’re terrified of online mob harassment. They don’t want to accidentally say the wrong thing, have their work taken out of context, or expose a shred of ignorance and become the internet’s next villain of the day. It makes me sad to think about all of the art we’re missing out on because people are (rightly) afraid.
If you put your work out there, you will be criticized. There’s no way around that, but a reasonable amount of constructive criticism can actually be a good thing. It can help expose weaknesses in your work and areas in need of improvement. It can help you refine your work and create something better in the future. Constructive criticism can help you learn, grow, and develop as a creative.
It’s the harassment that’s the problem. The bad faith critiques. The personal attacks. The degradation and humiliation. The demands. The threats. The massive tidal wave of angry comments and messages. None of this is justified.
I can’t promise that you won’t be harassed, but what if we, as artists, collectively stopped doing this to each other? What if we focused on supporting each other’s growth and development instead? The internet will never be a safe space, but we can build communities that bolster rather than punish each other. We can create little pockets of support and safety.
As artists, we are deeply familiar with the tenderness and vulnerability involved in putting our creations out into the world. Let’s keep this in mind before writing a comment, sending a message, or joining a tidal wave targeting another person’s work. Before you act, think about how it would feel to receive such a response to your heart. Would you want to be subjected to this? Would you want to be treated this way?
As artists, I want us to focus on finding ways to support each other. This can mean offering constructive criticism at times. Overall, it means operating from a base desire to help our fellow creatives be their best selves as opposed to trying to tear each other down or apart. The larger world may never be a safe container for our art, and that will always be scary, but I believe we can hold each other’s work, and each other, with care.