Over the last few months, the amount of haters and online trolls I have attracted has increased exponentially. They are everywhere—on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Blogs, Online forums, and the worst—YouTube (I swear, half the things people say there…).
To be quite honest, I used to take a lot of these hateful things to heart—and it still does sting pretty hard time-to-time. Growing up, I always took criticism very personally—but through my experiences on the blog and my online social presence has helped me overcome (mostly) all of this haterade people on the internet love to drink.
For this post I will talk about a bit of my experience with haters on the internet, and some advice I would give to anyone else dealing with online trolls whose sole mission in life is to make you feel like crap (while they are still living in the basement of their parents’ house).
My experience with haters
I always considered myself somewhat of a likeable and social person—but I have been getting a ton of haters spewing all this nasty stuff about me on the internet. Here are some of the most popular comments I get said about myself, and my thoughts/responses of each one:
1. You are horrible at street photography and take crap photos
I find it funny that most people who say this to me never leave a link to their own photography and work. If you are going to criticize others, at least put some skin in the game. I have also found that some people who often criticize me don’t shoot street photography at all (they take photographs of flowers and sunsets).
I am still relatively new in street photography (I have been only shooting for five years—and probably seriously the last two) and have a ton to learn. Although I don’t consider myself a great photographer yet, I would say I am a decent photographer. Hopefully within 10 years, I can start taking some truly amazing images.
Also note that there is a fine line between “hating” and “critique”. I have no problem with people not liking the way I take photographs (of my photographs themselves)—but people simply saying that “I suck” doesn’t help me become a better photographer.
2. If you shot me in the face with a flash, I would punch you in the face
I don’t know why I get so many violent threats via the internet in some shape or form. I mean at the end of the day—I’m just taking a photograph. There are many things that are far more worse that other people do (think about the businesspeople doing money-laundering and stealing hardworking tax dollars or people mugging innocent bystanders on the street). I always try my best to shoot with a smile—and openly and honestly.
I’ve heard some really nasty stuff—like people threatening to throw me in the middle of the road and get run over by cars, or people saying they would smash my Leica through my teeth. Why so violent?
I do piss people off occasionally when shooting street photography, but you never live life without pissing someone off. To be quite frank, I probably pissed off more people at my old job (screwing up reports and to-do-lists) than I do when shooting street photography (people usually smile and are quite happy to get their photos taken).
3. You know nothing about photography, are a hypocrite, and you should stop blogging
First of all let me say that I often times do get back on what I say (as my views on street photography are constantly evolving) but I wouldn’t consider myself a hypocrite. Being a hypocrite (despite popular belief) isn’t just going back on what one said—but “pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have” (via Wikipedia). I always try my best to speak from the heart and honestly—but like all other humans out there, I have my flaws.
I think it is very important to constantly evolve/change your views on something. For example, the “101 things I learned in street photography” a year ago is quite different from what I believe in now, with the recent post on “102 things I learned in street photography”. If you fall victim to only thinking in one way—you end up becoming narrow-minded without being able to develop as a photographer, and a person.
I try to stay as open and transparent through my blog, through things I experiment with, things I have difficulties with—for the sake of keeping knowledge open and free to the masses. Everything on my blog is free, in which I write with my heart and soul—and often keeps me up late at night. I don’t blog because I am obliged to—but I do it because I love it.
At the end of the day, everything I wrote on my blog is my personal opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt. I met up a street photographer named Fabrizio Quagliuso recently and he said it best. He told me there were a lot of things on my blog that he agreed with and found insightful, but other things he didn’t find resonated with him—which is what I want people to get out of the blog.
I also encourage everyone out there who is interested in street photography to start their own blog—to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences. To simply try to shut others down doesn’t help anybody.
4. You haven’t been shooting street photography for very long, what gives you the right to teach street photography workshops?
Although I haven’t shot street photography for many others out there, I am not completely new to street photography. I have shot for around five years, and have experimented relentlessly during the period with my street photography—particularly with the aspect of overcoming my fear of shooting street photography, and learning how to interact more with people.
People also confuse time with having to do anything with being fluent at anything. Just because someone says they have been shooting for twenty years doesn’t mean anything—as they could have only shot once a week, or once a month for those twenty years.
I would say that after getting laid off my old job, the amount of learning I have done with street photography within the last 7 months has been incredible. Rather than only spending an hour or two a day to street photography (my old job sucked 8 hours of each day) I now can fully devote myself to street photography and “work” on street photography for nearly 14 hours a day (blogging, shooting, reading books, meeting people, etc).
Also you don’t have to be the absolute best in the world to be an effective critic or teacher. I have had teachers who were absolutely brilliant and genius, but awful teachers—as they were horrible connecting with students. I have had sports coaches who weren’t that great at playing the sport themselves, but had a very strong understanding of the game and would be extremely effective coaches.
John Szarkowski (the director of photography of New York’s MOMA from 1962-1991) wasn’t a great photographer himself, but a brilliant art critic and writer. I also have heard friends who have attended photography workshops with great photographers, but didn’t get much out of the teaching.
For my street photography workshops, it is less about me “preaching” about street photography—but rather opening up a dialogue with both myself and the participants (and amongst themselves) about street photography. There are also many people out there who have little to no experience in street photography, who just need a bit of guidance and support—something that I feel that my workshops do well.
5. Why do you call yourself the self-proclaimed God of street photography?
I don’t know where people got this concept from—but I am definitely NOT the God of street photography, nor do I proclaim myself to be. I am like all of the other amateurs out there—I am constantly learning myself and find difficulties and aspire to become a great photographer.
I see the blog as more of a community platform—where street photographer from all around the world can connect, interact, and share their love of street photography. I only happen to be the hub that connects people—and am fortunate to have a blog that is quite popular, from the help of everyone out there.
How to deal with haters
So enough about my personal experiences and rebuttals—you too may have random haters. People saying that they hate your photography, people who say that your photography isn’t street photography, or just people who are just trying to troll you for the hell of it. Below are some things that I have learned that have helped me sleep at night (and quite well!):
1. Love your haters
Wait—wait—love the haters? What do you mean?
If there’s anything I learned from Jesus—is that he had a ton of haters. A ton. I mean, the guy (although adored by many) was eventually crucified by those he was preaching to help out. Let’s also take Ghandi for instance—arguably one of the holiest man was assassinated by a hater—although he did nothing but spread positive messages and preached for peaceful uprisings against the British.
However both Jesus and Ghandi told us to not lash back at our haters with hate, but outpour feelings of love toward them.
Imagine if you are a hater and you put on some anonymous name like “Yousuck123” and your email address is “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Imagine leaving a nasty comment to someone (trying to get them to respond in a negative way) and then having the person leave back a calm and supportive message back. You end up failing as a hater, and probably feeling a bit guilty about yourself and start wondering what you are doing in your life.
If you retaliate hate with more hate, you are only devouring a part in your soul which will make you more negative. Spread love and positivity—and you won’t let the haters get to you.
2. Realize haters gonna hate
One of the first videos I ever made (of me shooting street photography with a flash in Hollywood) got a massive amount of hate. As of now, I still have around 52% downvotes on it, and comments such as “if you did this to me, I would punch you in the face” or my favorite, “after watching this video, I am ashamed to call myself Asian”. I was quite surprised by all the comments I got, as I made the video as more of an instructional tool for those who asked me how I shot with a flash in the streets (without getting punched in the face).
In life, there are always going to be haters. You are going to get haters at work, haters at school, haters in your family, haters amongst your friends—haters, haters, haters.
But realize that with the internet, people don’t hate more—but they do it with the false impression that they can do it anonymously without any sort of repercussions.
Haters gotta realize that often times what goes around—comes around. I do believe a lot in karma—that if you treat others negatively, you are going to get screwed in the end. The same as what Jesus preached with the “golden rule”—do onto others as you would like done to yourself.
3. Ignore them
When you have online trolls, they want you to feel like crap (as the haters themselves are probably very insecure about themselves). However if you simply ignore them—they feel frustrated as you have nothing to feed them with—and they will simply frown, mope, and crawl back to the cave they came back from.
I believe there are times in which you should directly address trolls (such as if they say something blatantly false about yourself) – but most of the time just learn to ignore them. If they are spending their precious time to be some internet tough guy or bully, they either must really adore you, have some jealous feelings toward you, or simply have nothing better to do (quite sad!).
What advice would you have about dealing with haters? Would love to hear your feedback/thoughts/critiques/comments below!