Why we need constructive criticism

If you don’t like it, leave it.

Criticism led us to where we are. It is part of our fundamental nature to desire more. We no longer serve under the reign of a royal family. We enjoy civil rights to equalize our freedom of opportunity. We formed a healthy relationship between producer and consumer fueled by the needs of the former. It’s no doubt that criticism is important, but as it becomes more accepted in our society, people begin to question the things they use on an everyday basis. Should active users of a good or service be the most critical of it?

Take a look at YouTube. Since 2011, the video content sharing site has released a rewind video that takes a brief look over the influencers, content and music of the past year. However, last year’s rewind, “YouTube Rewind 2018: Everyone Controls Rewind,” received massive backlash from the community. As of writing this article, the video stands as the most disliked video on the platform with over 15 million dislikes. However, many viewers showed distaste toward the video solely because it was the popular opinion to dislike it. An example of this is Pewdiepie’s (the most subscribed YouTube channel) parody of the rewind. His rewind was the product of the craze that had appeared over disliking the video. This is evident through the millions of likes on his video.

Criticism is defined as “the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The key of criticism is the analysis that stems from finding ways to improve. This is the fundamental difference between criticism and hate. While hate focuses on what’s bad about something, criticism finds ways to improve a subject’s flaws. That’s why constructive criticism is viewed much more favorably than hateful derogatory comments. For example, the overwhelming criticism against YouTube’s rewind video would have been more valid if it was constructive criticism of the video rather than a string of offensive and incoherent comments insulting YouTube. There were exceptions, but they were drowned out by the wave of unfounded complaints.

The problem with a majority of criticism (including criticism by active users) is that many instances of criticism do not mention any actual problem or significance. This type of criticism is often used to draw attention to oneself or cause unnecessary worrying. For that reason, criticism is slowly becoming synonymous with hate. Another issue with active users criticizing is that it often undermines the effort put into a work. Looking back at the YouTube rewind, the creation of the video was an ambitious undertaking that took months of planning, writing, shooting and everything in between. However, the wave of dissent that resulted utterly invalidated the work. Although criticism was rightfully given for its shortcomings, the work put into the video was completely ignored. As a result, YouTube Rewind 2018 is a well-edited and professional project that is known only for its fundamental flaws.

I noticed that trivial changes are often met with intense criticism and hate. For example, a small layout change in a website can elicit a negative response even if the adjustment increases performance and convenience. Longtime users are against change and are very willing to criticize because it diverts from what they are comfortable using. It is for this reason that criticism for larger changes are more subject to unconstructive criticism. This occurs when users disregard improvements and fixate on the fact that a modification was made.

In my opinion, proper criticism requires experience, knowledge and validity. Often times, the only way to find an educated opinion is by asking your active followers. There is no one who knows a product or service better than the person who uses it often. After all, loyal users have the most interest in the items they possess. Allowing regular users to criticize offers a great source of constructive criticism. Flaws are mentioned and suggestions are made because it’s in the user’s best interest to make the service as good as possible. If no one mentions the flaws in our society, no one in charge would be taking action to fix them. It is because of criticism that everything from food to video games continues to improve; it’s the need for a change, and the ability to communicate that need.

When your friends or family tell you something you can improve on, you are inclined to listen because of how well they know you. This is similar to criticism for anything else: active users prompt a necessary growth hardly found elsewhere.

If you don’t like it, make your voice heard.

By Ethan Park, Feature editor
Editorial cartoon by Joy Wang