A dear friend and fellow voice coach decided to take a break from Facebook this week. And I don't blame him. In his words, "I come on Facebook to have fun, learn some interesting tidbits, see wonderful posts about people doing good things, keep up with my friends and events that are important to them, see some beautiful pictures, read inspiring stories, and hear about people both passionate about and active in animal rescue."
What he's had enough of is the "hatefulness and negativity in people's posts about others doing the best they can with the opportunities that fall into their laps."
Phil's referring to the post-Oscar commentary that poured out about the awfulness of everything from Ellen's hosting to people's outfits. And above all, the bashing of Pink's rendition of "Over the Rainbow."
The same type of comments flooded social media following NBC's live broadcast of The Sound of Music in December, where musicians and non-musicians alike slammed the talents and efforts of its star Carrie Underwood, as well as the rest of the cast and crew.
For those in the music business, a good deal of this negativity – about anyone’s performance – can be chalked up to jealousy. And there is certainly nothing wrong with critiquing a performance.
But there is a flavor to the criticism of so many artists today, particularly by other artists, that isn't remotely constructive or in any way thoughtful. It's downright rude and nasty.
And sadly, many of us have been taught to think this way.
When I was studying voice in college, we were encouraged to snub anything that wasn't classical or perfect (which obviously left very little for us to admire and appreciate). We were led to believe that by liking any singer who wasn't absolutely flawless, that we were somehow vocally flawed as well. As a result, I went from loving all types of music and singers to judging everyone. By my sophomore year, I literally couldn’t turn on the radio – to any station – without rolling my eyes.
One day, I was about to balk at Jewel’s "Foolish Games" when my enjoyment of the song and her passionate rendition of it overrode my training. Rather than roll my eyes, I found tears welling up in them.
In that moment, I decided to not only stop being critical of other singers, but to once again enjoy all music and to truly appreciate everyone's creative efforts. I've stayed true to that vow, and my life, my coaching practice, and my own creativity have been better for it.
To quote Phil once again, "I'd like to see those of us on Facebook try to be a little kinder, rather than malevolent armchair arbiters." Amen. Enough with holding everyone but ourselves to impossible standards. We each have too little time on this planet to spend it criticizing people who are doing what they love, and doing their best.
Thanks dear friend for taking a stand and making such an important point. May we all pay attention to and follow your advice.
Jennifer Hamady is a voice coach and psychotherapist in Manhattan, as well as the author of "The Art of Singing: Discovering and Developing Your True Voice." For more information about Jennifer's writing and practice, visit: www.FindingYourVoice.com