Stop Being An Online Bully

In all fairness, I can admit that I’m not head-over-heels about every artistic piece of expression I’ve seen in my life. There have been moments in which my criticality has outweighed my appreciation for art altogether, leaving me to laugh internally at a sensitively expressed art birthed from another individual. I’ve visited galleries and enough social media sites to encounter a subjectivity I have inside myself that can be harshly judgmental and unfair toward what brings fellow artists to a spiritual sense of self and artistic release, wanting to ask the person next to me, “Is this serious right now?”. And with all that said, I am acutely disappointed in myself for having had such moments of disassociation and cynicism.

Each of us has an opinion, which is healthy and promotes good dialogue and debate in the right settings. Unfortunately, some people choose to use their opinions to denounce others through menial online posts via social media and comment boards. Though I’ll never tell someone that their opinion is invalid, I will gladly stand up for those who have been unjustly persecuted for sharing themselves with the world through art, only to be left with a distasteful post on how horrible their expression proved to be.

As much as my judgment of the arts—something that has a proper bearing in a welcomed analytical setting — bums me out, I have never taken my subjective opinions to online forums. I draw the line very distinctly between internal preference and external criticism. Perhaps we’re on the verge of uncensored criticism, in which the excessive prompting that “Your work is shit” will be an acceptable response to art that isn’t particularly applicable to our personal definitions. But why is the need so great to condemn artists for what they choose to define themselves by; and when did we receive the responsibility to impose our opinions on others in such an aggressive display of dislike?

Having been a published writer for a few years now, I’ve fallen victim to the judgment of my peers. I’ve sat heartbroken and contemplative in the wake of poor acceptance of my work, leaving me with a tinge of doubt for what I do. The intensity that others have judged my work with is disconcerting, and has, at points, largely discouraged me from pursuing what I desire most to do—share my thoughts with a demographic that can relate through art.

If you are an artist in any capacity—visually, musically, dramatically, etc.–you too have been the prey of unhealthy motives. Being an artist now seems to demand the criticism and subjective opinion of peers online, to the point of detriment. It’s an unkind abuse that often goes overlooked, being that anonymity is widely the proponent of such bullying against art.

It’s easy for an observer to disagree with a viewpoint, find a flaw, or feel a false sense of entitlement that leads to some arcane necessity to inform the world of their aversion towards any particular display of art. I’m lost when it comes to sourcing the onslaught of such projected opinions, and I don’t know who these phantom critics can be generalized into. I like to think these people suffer from severe lack of identity or insecurity, leading them to seek relevance and acceptance through patronizing others’ accomplishments. I don’t think I’m insane to think those with any grounding in the artistic field would never attempt to slash another’s reputation using a comment box. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t see a confident, well-adjusted person seeking the need to bolster their personal preference by downgrading an artist’s expression of self.

The people I know who are bold and confident enough to display their inner world to the outside public understand the intimacy and vulnerability of using art to express themselves. Their interest is in finding meaning through the artistic process, not sabotaging someone else for having a separate means of expression. Artists, and anyone with common decency, tend to congratulate their peers for being candid with the world. They understand that a simple word of derision can be unhealthy to the catharsis gained through self-expression, and hope not to infringe on someone else’s means of making sense through art.

Flip the coin, and you’re left with those who seek validation by simply having a viewpoint—any viewpoint—contradictory to the piece their analyzing. I find it to be an odd way of claiming someone else’s work as their own, as if they were better equipped to produce a piece of art that belongs to another. When you criticize an article I wrote, you’re more or less saying that you should have written it instead, because I got it wrong. Though opinions are obviously everyone’s right to have, there is a problem with the logic of public naysaying—I wrote that particular piece from my own mind, with my own thoughts and opinions attached, and you hold no authority over how I chose to voice myself. If you are anti what I’m expressing, then I recommend you create your own counter-piece, not retreating to the inner narcissism of a chat room where a simple sentence can be used to mitigate something I spent valuable time and energy to produce.

I’m simply asking for all the self-proclaimed critics out there to be nice. If you don’t accept something, no one will be offended if you internally write it off and choose to disagree silently. Likewise, by voicing your unasked for judgement against someone else, you look like a fool who would rather type a negative thought than choose a meaningful form of your own self-expression. Online bashing is not an art form. It does not bring you followers or advocates for your trivial harshness. It won’t win you friends, but will instantly make you an enemy. There’s no beauty in telling someone you’ve never met that they’re wrong, flawed, or disagreeable to you. Silence is golden, kids.

Criticizing others without the necessity to do so is bullying and stilts art for those you’re speaking against. By choosing to define yourself by what you hate, instead of what you love, you not only reject others unfairly, but you lose a critical appreciation for the world around you and downplay the capability of your peers. It’s an alarming phenomenon that we’ve reached the point where one person can spend 20 years perfecting an art that brings him or her personal satisfaction, meanwhile costing someone else a mere 20 seconds to bash it without credibility in doing so. Why have we become so hateful that we can’t accept and move on, needing to project our disagreement to an online world who isn’t paying attention in the first place? When did we become the rightful enforcers of hate-posts that hold others back from wanting to express themselves with integrity and boldness? The answer is that we didn’t. We hold no reasonable role in denouncing others. It’s an unattractive display of self-righteousness and disdain that only leads to the inability to appreciate any beauty or diverse meaning in life. The more we choose to brood on the things we hate about others and what they produce, the closer we become to un-emotive shells, unable to accept the world around us and the artistry that might revolutionize it.

It’s easy to be a blank face on a discussion board, freely vocalizing every nuanced issue you had with someone’s self-projection. It’s not as easy to find the vulnerability to share yourself through art, knowing you may not be well-received. We need to garner more sympathy and respect for our peers, or else we’ll entirely lose the plot. Unless you are earning your salary for analyzing and critiquing art, your opinions are not only unwelcome, they are grossly unappreciated and disrespectful. What did we learn as children, guys: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? TC mark

featured image – Shutterstock

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