Why does one critical comment have more impact than a dozen complimentary ones?
I’m going to share three stories of recent negative comments. Some details have been omitted because I want to share examples, not publicly shame people.
One feature of Instagram is hashtags, where you can mark your post with one or more #hashtags and people can find your post by searching for those. I typically use hashtags like #railfan and #railwayphotography.
You can also share specific tags to try to be featured by Instagram accounts (“hubs”) that share exceptional photographs. I wrote about Instagram hubs here. Being featured is a nice “attaboy” that indicates that the moderators thought your photograph was interesting enough to share with their followers.
My photo of ex CSX 445 was shared by the TRB_Express hub. There were a number of positive comments, and one negative one. For some dumb reason, the negative comment hit me and totally eclipsed the several positive comments.
I wanted to comment back with some snide remark, maybe noting that the commenter hasn’t posted any photos of their own at all, but I remembered that I am a mature adult who is above such things. Usually.
I just left the comment alone and moved on. Obviously it still bothers me a bit, since I am writing this post. More below on how to move on.
Recently the model train manufacturer ScaleTrains announced a new release – the Union Pacific standard turbine in N scale. This release was met with a burst of criticism from a vocal minority of modelers. “A huge let down” “Who asked for this?” “Crap”
It was shocking, really.
Fortunately, it was followed by an avalanche of support for ScaleTrains and a rebuke toward those who complained.
To me, this goes to show what kind of golden age of train modeling we live in when people can be vocally disappointed when a quality manufacturer releases a new model. These days there are many manufacturers, all doing very good work, and we have a cornucopia of great models to choose from.
Of course, no one manufacturer is ever going to make exactly the right group of models that any one modeler wants. The manufacturers have to make money, so they do their research to see what models they can make a profit on. The truth is that there are a few models that will never be made because there isn’t enough commercial demand.
The great thing is that these days, you can make your own! With 3D printing and the older techniques of resin casting, kit bashing and straight up scratch building, people who are determined enough can make any model. It might be expensive, it certainly will be time consuming, but it can be done.
Of course, if you want a ready-to-run locomotive or freight car… you may not get what you want. Ever. Get over it. It’s just a hobby.
Raining On Their Parade
Recently a small content company (think photographer or videographer) announced a new product that they were quite proud of. One of the first comments pointed out a very subtle flaw in the product.
Can you imagine how the owners of the company felt? They spent a lot of time and effort to make this product, only to have someone nitpick it?
In this case I messaged the commenter, and suggested that perhaps they could raise their concerns privately instead. This was done and the commenter removed their comment.
The Complaint Culture
I think social networks have enabled a “complaint culture” where people think it’s OK to complain about whatever they want, whenever they want, and to whomever they want.
It’s really come to a head in the past little while with the references to “Karens” and “I want to speak to your manager” type of memes. People think they are entitled to whatever they want, and get offended when they don’t get it. Maybe it’s always been this way, but it’s more visible now.
I’ve always told my kids that words matter and that they should be careful of what they say in person or online, especially anything said in a negative way.
So when you’re going to leave some kind of negative feedback on someone’s photo, some company’s new product, or anything that someone made and is probably proud of, think twice. Is the comment constructive? Or is it reflecting your own disappointment and has nothing to do with the quality of the work itself? What good will leaving negative feedback do?
I’m all for leaving negative feedback when it matters. For example, I’ve left poor reviews of hotels. I make sure that the review is factual and is based on something substantial – like, say, bugs in my room – rather than something like “they didnt’ have bagels for breakfast one morning, 1 star”
Complain when it will make a positive change.
Handling Negative Feedback
The consensus is to focus on the positive feedback you have received – which generally far outweighs the negative – and try to ignore the crap comments.
In more detail:
- Keep a list of positive comments you’ve received to look back on, and for motivation
- Examine the negative comment to see if there is any truth or actual feedback you can use to improve your product / photography / whatever was being commented on
- Write about how you feel about the comment, privately, or publicly like I am!
- Turn the negative comment around and “hit it back out there” – if someone craps on your photo, post another one! And another!
I want to finish on a positive note by acknowledging and thanking the many people who A) leave comments here, and B) email me privately to thank me for the photography and posts I share. I read them all and try to respond to them all. I really appreciate them.
When I first started blogging way back in July 2005, I didn’t get any feedback – good or bad – and it was hard to keep going. It felt like I was talking into a void and I wondered if people were actually reading what I wrote. Looking at my early blog stats, I’d say not many were reading! However, people started reading and commenting, which encouraged me to put more work and care into it in a virtuous circle.
Please, leave a comment on your favourite blog, Facebook group, or wherever you frequent and let people know that you appreciate what they do. Let’s drown out the negative comments.