The Fine Line Between Educational Criticism and Outright Negativity

It only took a few hours after the announcement of the iPhone for articles trumpeting 9 Things Wrong with the iPhone and Why It Won’t Be Apple’s Killer App, not to mention the thousands of flippant blog comments (“OMG… it like… sucks… and stuff”) to flood the internets. Let’s set aside the fact that NO CONSUMERS HAVE USED ONE YET. I want to focus on where we draw the line between educational criticism (for lack of a better term) and outright negativity.

Educational criticism should help us learn, articulate, see the whole picture (positives and negatives) about a subject, and hopefully thus excel at understanding things in the world. (i.e. If I can hear that a drummer tends to unintentionally play behind the beat on a certain song, it might help me understand tempo and how a tight rhythm section makes all the difference in the final song output.) 

Outright negativity is fairly self-explanatory. If you need examples, spend about two minutes anywhere there are commenting users on the internet. (Except here, you folks are quite nice.) Or we could use a modified version of our drummer example… “OMG… he like… sucks… and stuff.” There’s no educational aspect, no desire to learn or grow, no care for those people on the receiving end, and no real motivation other than tearing something, or someone’s work, down. It’s immature and ignorant.

Of this vice, I am the worst of sinners. I’m trying to get better and be more aware of what comes out of my mouth. I’m also trying to become better at articulating the why of why I don’t like something – an object, a song, a magazine layout, this lists goes on and on, much like my opinions on pretty much everything.

I want my motivation to be that of someone who makes and enjoys (and helps others make and enjoy) beautiful, functional, important things. To that end, outright negativity has no place, as it doesn’t educate me or anyone else around me. (It does make me look like a pompous elitist, though, and in our heart of hearts, don’t we all want to be known for that?)

I cross the line between educational criticism and outright negativity daily, but I’m working on it. Any tips?