For the most part, my twelve years on Twitter have been a pleasant experience. I’m not going to say that I loved every minute I spend there, but the group of folks I found myself interacting with there are overwhelmingly civil, supportive, and inspiring. Their friendly nature played no small part in convincing me to start shooting film seriously years ago when I was looking to refine my creative path.
But in the past 30 days, two tweets complained slightly famously (~150 retweets total) about the lack of critical feedback in the online photography community. Both tweets expressed frustration, but neither offered a solution or gave a meaningful avenue for a discourse. Instead, they gained divisive engagement. Some agreed with the cries against toxic positivity. Others disagreed with the entitled demands to have unsolicited opinions showed down their throats.
So what is acceptable?
I figured that it’s probably best to ask the community what they want, so I ran a poll.
“When you post a photo on social media, do you expect to receive critiques from anyone who can see it?” — NO, says 84%.
This poll is made of 83 responses with a few participants adding clarifications for their votes.
Twelve people followed up with a general sentiment that a positive, thoughtful conversation is welcome. “Who’s going to say no to good words?” said Jamie, while Ais added, “I said Yes because on the chance of someone catching something I didn’t which is welcome as long as it isn’t rude.” Tom’s reply read, “I post photos to share the journey, not to receive critiques or praise.”
Others added that inserting oneself into the position of a critic isn’t an automatic assignment of authority. “That becomes the challenge of meaningful criticism. Who took the photo, what’s their background? Same with the person offering criticism. For example, I don’t know anything about fashion photography… so does Steve want to hear my thoughts about how someone is posed?” — Niel (Steve is a professional portrait, fashion & beauty photographer).
Of course, no one suggested they want a train of meaninglessly positive emojis and brief comments that say nothing. “It’s easier to hit the heart button and move on, than articulate why you like something,” sighed Monika.
My takeaway: social media isn’t perfect; creating meaningful connections and communities takes an effort. But just because we may not understand each online as well as we would IRL, it does not mean that emotions are dulled when transmitted over the wire. Sometimes, quite the opposite.