“Trolling” the Trolls: A Piece on Dealing with Criticism

A huge part of being a musician is the fact that one would always be under some sort of criticism. I know for one thing that I am not exempt from that. There will always be people who will hate you for no reason at all. You would be thankful for a few who would actually give out criticism because they care and they want you to improve. Unfortunately most of these people who are called “trolls” on the Internet really have nothing good to say. They only care about bashing or slandering you with words. If you think about it, it just shows how insecure they really are about themselves and they try to find self-worth in trying to hurt other people with words. If you ask me, that’s a truly miserable experience.

Whenever I watch videos of people playing their beloved instruments on YouTube, most of them would leave the comments section open for the public to use. Occasionally, you will see people posting positive, heartwarming comments, something that would give you the drive to continue on doing what you love. Most, however, would try and put you down. Many times I have been at the receiving end of such things. Back in the days when I had limited equipment (from 2003 to 2009, I produced music with a Pentium III PC and a consumer-level sound card!), I get comments like my music is overblown, too long, poor production values, overly ambitious, pretentious, etc. Some were even cruel enough to suggest that I forget music altogether and take up something like tennis! Now, how are those comments of any help might I ask? They aren’t. They just exist to hurt you.

So, how do you respond to such things. Never give up! Take all of those things as a challenge. All my life I have had to face critics ranging from my own parents to some stranger who knows nothing about my life and my passion for music. I had moments when I cried because of such painful words. Still to this day, I have to deal with how low my self-esteem has become because of mere words. The thing is that critics will not go away. They will always be there. It is best that you take those comments into consideration and take them as pointers for improvement. While we recognize the fact that the impulse to feel angry or sad will always be there after a critic attacks harshly, it is best to always use your cognitive faculties to look at the criticism from an objective standpoint.

Back in the days when I just used a Pentium III to experiment with sound and produce my music (I still have those albums in this website where I made use of such equipment), I felt deeply hurt when critics attacked the quality of my recordings and the quality of my voice. But then again, after all that emotion had passed, I evaluated myself. I realized the fact that I didn’t have the right equipment; it’s something that I had to accept. I also realized that I needed to read and learn more about the various facets of music production i.e. using EQ, effects, mixing, etc. Looking back, I’m glad that I risked putting my music out for the world to listen to; otherwise I wouldn’t have learned. Fast forward to the present day, I am at the very least scraping some of my living expenses from a variety of musical activities. Given my age now, I think I would have been worse off had I followed the troll’s advice of going for something like tennis! At least music gave me something to hope for that is achievable. If I tried tennis with my present weight and bad knees, I would be laughable.

To anyone reading this who has been shot down by any troll’s words, here’s what you can do:

1. Allow your emotions to be felt but control how you respond to them. It’s all right to feel sad, angry, bitter. You really can’t help it. It’s natural to feel that way. But then, make use of those emotions to drive your creativity. Maybe you can write a song about it or do some other thing. Express that emotion in some positive way. It wouldn’t really help at all if you try and kill the troll. That wouldn’t be of benefit at all.

2. Study the critic’s words. In certain instances, criticism has some kind of basis. Try and figure out why it was said in the first place. Maybe there really is something there you can use to improve. I for one had to swallow my pride and see if there really is anything in there for me to consider. Discard the bad, take note of the good.

3. Accept the fact that you cannot make everybody happy. Despite any measure to improve, you will always be under attack by some critic or two. The Canadian band Rush exemplifies this fact by continuing to create their brand of music, despite being ignored for years by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and attacks by famed critics like Robert Christgau.

4. Continue on working towards your goals. Never give up. At the very least, your creativity will bring forth achievements that will be gratifying to yourself and to others. Hey, at the very least there still will be one or more people who would like your work. For someone like me, it’s enough drive to for me to continue. Even if nobody would like what I put out, I’ll still try because eventually my persistence and hard work will pay off.

As a consolation, try this out. Look up a video on YouTube of any musician performing. Many times you will find trolls posting harsh comments. Try clicking on their profiles and see if they themselves have put out any smidgen of creativity like an original song or a performance. Many times, you will find that they really don’t have anything to demonstrate except for their harsh words. You will see how empty such people really are.

Here’s an example: Look into this video of a guitarist testing out the Bugera BC-15 practice amp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-1ArtTkGpc

Here you will see Japanese guitarist Akira Wada testing out the amp. You will see here comments by this guy saying, “oh god,stop it! he plays like a 12 year old student..,”and this guy  saying, “I had to watch again OMG he is playing like a 13 year old in a guitar store.Perhaps it’s to sophisticated for me to understand.It made me chuckle, for whats it’s worth.” The funny thing is that these people have the balls to post such comments when they themselves have nothing to show. All words people! Can they demonstrate how a mature man should play guitar. It’s best for them to shut up because if you inspect their YouTube profiles I don’t see any videos of them playing like Steve Vai or Allan Holdsworth or Eric Clapton even. It just demonstrates how fools use empty words. I remember reading Proverbs 15 when dealing with unqualified people who speak empty words. Verse 2 reads, “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Seems to me that there are two kinds of critics, the “wise” ones who actually know what they are talking about (useful for learning) and the fools a.k.a. trolls who could not demonstrate what they are saying and only mean to hurt people.

For those trolls out there, I challenge you. Is this a guy who plays like a 12-year old?

If you could play better than this, I MIGHT listen to you. Otherwise, you aren’t worth my time.

As Jean Sibelius once said, “Pay no attention to what the critics say. Remember, a statue has never been set up in honor of a critic!” It has the similar tone of Proverbs 12:16 which reads, “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” I remember Limp Bizkit’s Wes Borland insulting Dream Theater. Did Dream Theater paid attention to his attention-grabbing antics? He was simply ignored.


2 responses to ““Trolling” the Trolls: A Piece on Dealing with Criticism

  1. you need to get your ass over to Soundcloud… only positive comments :-)
    also most people who post comments on Youtube are total idiots…though it has gotten better since they created up/downvoting and comments with too many negative votes are removed…

    • Hey Ashton,

      My ass is actually on Soundcloud! You’re correct in your assertion that people at Soundcloud are more sensible and that the majority of people at YouTube are indeed idiots.

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