“What a Waste of Time” — Handling Online Criticism
I was lucky enough to get a generous review on io9.com a few years ago. And in the comments section under the review, the response was overwhelmingly positive. I was being tweeted, and e-mailed and Liked.
It was a really good weekend.
Until I read this.
“I tried giving this comic a read, and it wasn’t funny at all.
What a waste of time.”
My pageviews were astronomical. People were clearly pouring through the archives. And the positive comments were kind to say the least. Obviously, I was doing something right.
But you know which comment stayed with me: “What a waste of time.”
So, how do you process criticism?
This is where I’m supposed to say something wise and relevant and maybe even witty — something that puts a lightbulb over your head… something to either make you see things my way or solidify your opposition. It’s what I do, right?
Well, guess what? I can’t.
Let’s face it. We do what we do because of love — every last one of us. We put a lot of love into our work. We put a lot of ourselves into our work.
And “What a waste of time” feels just like being laughed at when you ask your crush to the prom.
Or… ahem… so I’m told…
We talked about this on Webcomics Weekly a long time ago. I remember Dave Kellett saying that he always tries to consider the motivation for a trollish comment. “A lot of people lead very, very sad lives,” he said. “And, let’s face it, as webcartoonists, we’re living out our dreams.”
Nothing makes a sad, angry person more sad and more angry than seeing a happy person. And it’s only natural to lash out.
“What a waste of time.”
Nope. It still stings.
OK. Try this. Maybe the guy is naturally a jerk. The io9 Web site lets me see all of his recent comments, and it’s clear, the guy has a track record of being That Guy who likes to yell Boo when everyone else is cheering.
So, he’s just naturally a crank, right? Can’t take a crank seriously, can you?
“What a waste of time.”
That didn’t help either.
In that same podcast, Scott said that if you automatically discount the mean comments, then you have to automatically discount the praise.
But I really liked the praise. I liked getting Liked.
And if I accept that, I have to accept “What a waste of time.”
It’s time to face facts. This guy just did not like my comic, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It was unreasonable to think that 100% of any audience was going to be completely enthralled by my work, after all, and he was in the percentage that was decidedly un-enthralled.
So then I looked back on what I had been doing since the review was posted.
I was re-assuring myself with Web site stats, re-reading tweets, re-counting Like scores, using my stats to project tomorrow’s figures, re-reading the comments in the io9.com thread, researching the negative poster for insights to why he didn’t like my comic, re-re-reading tweets…
WHAT A WASTE OF TIME!
Because while I was doing all of that, I neglected to update my store to include the newest Evil Inc book! So, when a bunch of those new readers ordered book packages, they ordered four when they could have ordered all five. Some people just ordered Volume 4 when they could have ordered Volume 5 — which I think is the stronger book for a new reader. Updating that storefront would have been — far and away — the better use of my time.
Some people don’t like my strip.
But if I allow myself to pay too much attention to those people, I run a serious risk of not paying enough attention to the people who do.