When I was in high school and college, I attended events where I competed in public speaking with a focus on pros, poetry, one-act play, and dramatic readings. As a teenager and young adult, it was difficult to receive written critiques stating areas of improvement I needed to make with my presentations. Though I was not confident in many areas of my life, I believed I was good at this and how dare someone correct me. I was in my element. One of my instructors shared with me why it was important, and I should take the constructive criticism to heart so that I could learn and improve. While it was a bitter pill to swallow for my young mind at the time, I discovered my teacher was correct, as were my critics. I reviewed their comments and worked to better my presentations in order to move forward on my academic path.
Fast forward almost four decades later where I work to promote to visitors in the hopes they will choose to come to my city. I share the quality of life message so people can see what a great place my community is to visit, work, and live. Forty years later I am still receiving criticism for the job I’m doing. However, much of it seems to be more mean than constructive.
For example, I took the photo above during a noon walk by my office. As an amateur photographer, I saw the clouds from my window and knew the reflections off the water would be incredible, so I snapped the photo with my cell phone. This is the original photo. NOT enhanced.
I admit I enhanced the photo I shared on social media, but only slightly. I increased the vibrant color because I didn’t think my cell phone captured the true colors I saw. The photo above is my original. The one below has the color enhancement. It was then shared on social media channels.
I’ve done a comparison below to show the difference.
I recognize I could have left the photo alone and just posted the original, but I didn’t. The reaction? Overwhelmingly, people stated they loved it, loved our city, and loved living here. It was liked, loved, and shared by many.
While the positive comments were wonderful, much like my time as a teenager, I focused on the criticisms that included the following: “Holy Editing,” “Smoke and Mirrors,” and “The water never looks like this picture.”
Is the water blue? No. Again, my photographer’s eye knew the clouds would reflect off the water as would the blue sky. The reflective capture was what I was after.
The picture below was taken by me with my cell phone on a cloudy day but there is no reflection. To me, it is still beautiful. I have shared many photos much like the bottom one before only to get similarly critical comments.
The point of this post is to say criticism, while not always welcomed, is important. However, criticism with no construction around it, only the desire to complain about things on social media without offering a solution to the problem is not helpful. Social media has opened the door to more and more of this criticizing nature.
When I looked at the social media profiles of these same commenters, they were negative about almost everything on their own page, too.
Having lived in 20 different cities and towns in my life, some places were for only a few short months due to relocation or waiting to move into a permanent home. I’ve seen this same commentary consistently in many communities since social media began and even before in opinion columns in the newspaper. It is prevalent in places I’ve lived and in others I’ve only visited. Whether it was a letter to the editor or a social media post, no solution was offered, just criticism.
I jokingly said to a friend that when I read these comments, I want to say to the person, “If you are being held hostage and unable to leave this town, please let us know so we can send someone in to rescue you so you can get away,” or “If you don’t like it and are so unhappy, why don’t you leave?” I DON’T say these things, but I truly WANT to say them.
What started out as an innocent photo of the beauty of the day turned into a moment for me to think about my life and the life lessons I have learned. To those who consistently feel the need to criticize the community in which you live, I make this suggestion. If you don’t have a solution to the problem, please consider refraining from your criticisms. If your taxes are too high, help find a way to improve your community so that businesses will move there and help relieve your tax burden. If you don’t like the leadership in your community, exercise your right to vote. And if none of those solutions works for you, explore other options.
The United States is large. According to World Population Review, as of 2018, there are 19,495 incorporated cities, towns, and villages in the United States. If you don’t find a good fit in the U.S., there are always other countries. This is the only life we get on this earth. Why choose to be miserable, unhappy, and critical all the time? Find some place where you can enjoy the life you have, but remember this phrase.
Some people are never satisfied anywhere. The grass always looks a little greener on the other side of the fence.The Kansas Farmer, February 1917
Whether you go or stay, feel free to criticize but also offer solutions to improve your life, the life of your neighbors, and the vibrancy and success of your community.