I get it, everyone is a critic. It’s just that some critics are appreciated more than others. And when it comes to critics of your own domain, there is no such thing as constructive criticism; there are only hateful comments that come from losers. I know this first-hand.
Our son was trolling through the Internet one recent night whilst the rest of the gang was playing Scrabble. I assumed the son who was online was learning a new language or refining his ability to differentiate quadratic equations in his head. I never ask what else might be catching his attention on the Internet.
He interrupted the Scrabble game just as I was about to create a word that included “X’s” and “Q’s” “Hey, look at this,” he sort of exclaimed and asked at the same time. On his laptop was a photo of our house, not from Zillow or Google but from a random guy on a blog who was criticizing our landscaping. “Nice house,” the blogger said, “but garden is dreadful and doesn’t go with the house.” He went on, “Some people should just stay in New Jersey.” What?! Who is he? He doesn’t even know us. Why are people so mean? The answer is easy: people are mean because the Internet is anonymous.
I should know this better than others. I am an “Influencer” on LinkedIn and I write columns that are benign and helpful. Although I have a slew of followers on LinkedIn, I have learned to never look at comments because they tend to hurt my feelings. But LinkedIn is different from a personal attack. The new guy is talking about our house, the place where our family congregates. Let’s go get him.
“Hold on,” the family says. “Remember the other note?” The “other” read:
Dear Persons With A Dream,
For years now I have been watching your progress in renovating your house and turning it into a treasure. Every time I pass I think good for them! See the dream to fruition. Bravo! Bravo!
The note was signed: Just a Frequent Passerby
This note too, was anonymous. It was left in our mailbox on a slip of paper that was probably pulled out of a glove box. Someone took the trouble to stop his or her car and write the note. Thoughtful. The note was written in perfect cursive handwriting like your second-grade teacher might have done. It arrived at a time when the house was under scaffolding, the contractors were yelling at me for payment and there were wild animals running around in the house. It came at a good time and we framed the note to remind us that some people do notice positive change and are complimentary about what they see.
I could never be a politician, I couldn’t take the constant criticism. When in my car and another driver flips me off (a rare occurrence) I am wounded. When anonymous bloggers criticize something personal like a home, I am crushed. Like everyone else, I am genuine in my requests for feedback, as long as the feedback is good.
So we have two critics, at least. We like to pay attention to the one who described us as “Persons with a Dream.” That note writer will never know how much that note was appreciated. The other guy will never know how insensitive his anonymous note was and he can go pound sand.
Wine country is full of architecture, gardens, art, restaurants, amusements and all other manner of what is the culmination of someone’s passion. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Praise is good but if there is something that doesn’t suit your taste, how about just saying “Interesting”?