I’ve always admired Sam Hurd. Sam is not only immensely talented but he speaks his mind. He says what he wants to say and he doesn’t seem to care if people don’t like his opinion. I find him to be incredibly inspiring and I’ve been thinking a lot about him in the last week or so.
I experienced something interesting last week. I wrote an article that a lot of people thought was really intriguing. There were some people, though, that thought it was the stupidest thing they ever read and started drawing baseless conclusions about my business, who I am and my experience in the industry. I’ve been reflecting on this entire experience and have come to 2 conclusions.
Conclusion #1: The awesome thing about the internet… you can share your opinion.
You can take to your blog and share your opinion with the world. Literally nothing is stopping you from doing that. We are so lucky to have freedom of speech and we can use it to say whatever we want; whether it’s something that’s politically charged or just our favourite muffin recipe.
Conclusion #2: The shitty thing about the internet… you can share your opinion.
One of the shitty things about the internet, though… is that you can share your opinion.
Do I sound crazy?
Hear me out.
Some people have quite a defensive reaction when they read something that is not an opinion that they share. While we may not be able to control our initial reaction to something, we certainly can control how to proceed to act in our reaction. You can do it with tact and grace, or you can do the opposite.
Before writing a comment (or sending a DM or an email) that starts with “Well, this is stupid because….” (or that has a similar theme), consider the following:
- The writer may be speaking based on their experience. Their experience is undoubtedly different than yours. Just because you may not have experienced this yourself doesn’t void the fact that someone else had it.
- The writer may be speaking based on their perception. We all perceive things differently and thus draw different conclusions. Does it mean that an authors perception is wrong because it’s not the same as yours? Not at all. We’re all allowed to see things the way we see them.
- Read, re-read and re-read again. Make sure you’re actually aware of what the take-home message of an article is. It’s easy to get swayed and start debating broader topics but in order to have productive conversations, it’s best to re-focus conversations back to the original topic only.
- Don’t react based only the comments. See above about the importance of reading.
- We are all in different markets. What you experience in market and in your city may not be what the writer experiences in theirs. Even if you’re within the same city, you may be in two different markets and be experiencing the industry differently; this is an extension of the perception point I made above.
- We all have different “levels” of industry peers who may also influence our experiences. I consider myself a successful photographer but not a “famous” photographer. I’m fortunate enough to have relationships with some of the more famous photographers but I also frequently speak with and develop relationships with newer photographers and people who are a bit quiet in the industry. This means I get to learn about a variety of successes and struggles from people at all different levels in our industry and I use that as inspiration for writing. Some of the problems that a certain group of people in my market may have may not exist in the same group of people in your market.
- If you don’t have anything nice to say… well, you know how that finishes. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone but there’s no need to be rude or imply that someone is wrong for believing what they believe. “That’s interesting; I’ve never thought about it that way” or “While I can’t relate to this, this was an interesting read” or “While I don’t necessarily agree, I can see where you’re coming from.” All ways to express yourself while maintaining respect and not being confrontational.
While putting anything out there on the internet will attract a certain amount of negativity, I think it’s important to remember that as an industry we should remain professional with each other and hold each other in high regard even if we disagree. There are an infinite amounts of opinions out there and that’s what makes our businesses, our art, our experiences and our relationships with our clients all unique.