Fact: Being hypercritical does a whole lot more harm than good. Here’s why.
Go on to Facebook and take a look at the comments posted on any of the links shared by a media outlet. How many of them are thinly-veiled (if at all) criticisms? Be it about an upcoming movie adaptation of a kickass book, a call for action against global warming, or the debate between science and religion, there’s always something to pick on. In today’s Internet culture, our hypercritical approach has become socially acceptable – and that is causing a huge problem.
I’m not saying we should live in la-la land filled with rainbows and unicorns. We need to be able to discern the good from the bad; it’s called self-preservation. I’m not saying to remove our critical lens altogether, either. Constructive criticism – critical suggestions that add value, encourage a positive change, and inspire intelligent discourse – is always welcomed. The line blurs in today’s hypercritical culture in which, more often than not, we criticise for the sake of criticising. Even a seemingly harmless situation gets nitpicked just because we can.
And here is where the main problem lies: Rather than seeing both sides of the story, we lose perspective as we develop tunnel vision. We become so obsessed with finding and playing up the flaws that we are inadvertently trapping ourselves in a bubble – along with other likeminded individuals with whom we have formed a bond when we first made our assertions about a certain subject matter. Within this bubble, our perceived truth is based on beliefs, not facts; anything outside of the bubble – even facts – is irrelevant. Of course, an even bigger problem arises when we try to impose our beliefs on others.
Blame this on the scientific wiring of our brain, if you will.
According to Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., author of Beyond Cynical: Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity, when something riles you up, it activates a certain circuit in your brain. “When you see familiar problems, your brain lights up effortlessly because your past cortisol paved those neural pathways,” says Breuning. “Activating the same circuit over and over builds it up to the point where it activates easily. It takes effort to activate new circuits, that’s why so many people are in the habit of focusing on their usual critiques and ignoring the rest of the story.”
Translation: Most of the so-called flaws that incite our inner hypercritics are what we ourselves have created in our own brain. Because of those conditioned neural pathways, we choose to see what we want to see and filter out the rest of the potentially educational information.
At the end of the day, we are all entitled to our own opinion. In fact, never mind that by being hypercritical, we are essentially limiting our own growth. But if you had intended to “educate” the impressionable and, to put it bluntly, stir shit with your personal critical views, you might want to keep them exactly where they belong – private.
About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.
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