Navigating Harsh Judgements and Self-Worth in Web Design

I make no secret of my love for the web design community. There’s something both unique and beautiful about sharing code, assets, and advice.

But, just as a community can lift you up, certain dark corners of it can put you down. Intentional or not, some commentary can bring about a number of negative feelings. So much so that even an experienced designer can feel them.

People who work in technology tend to put forth some harsh judgements. I’m not talking about direct personal attacks, mind you. Rather, it’s the negativity surrounding the tools, languages, and services we utilize.

What we often don’t realize is how these words can impact other people. When we trash, say, CSS, the message we send can go beyond a simple complaint about the language itself. There may also be a personal toll that goes along with it. Social media and its rapid-fire quickness only serve to exacerbate the issue.

So, how can you deal with all of the noise out there without taking it personally? Here’s some advice for tuning out the darkest parts of the web design community.

Take Opinions for What They Are

Online gathering places such as forums and social media feeds are rife with hot takes. Some designers and developers (myself included) are all too happy to share their thoughts on virtually every facet of the industry.

That’s all well and good. But it’s easy to take things a little too far. For example, it’s one thing to have an opinion on WordPress. But deriding those who use it is something else entirely. The same goes for any content management system (CMS), language, or tool out there.

Seeing these sorts of statements on your screen may lead you to believe that you’re doing something wrong. Or that you’re not a “real” developer because you don’t work with tool x, y and z.

The bottom line is that one person’s opinion, even if they’re considered an influencer, is just that. If they don’t happen to be a fan of the same technologies as you, too bad for them.

Websites are built in all manner of different ways. We can argue the virtues of a specific approach until the sun burns out. But it’s ultimately a personal and professional choice. If it serves both you and your clients well, that’s all that really matters. Let them have their opinions – you keep being you.

A person speaks into a megaphone.

Avoid Negative People and Places

Sometimes it can feel impossible to get around all of the negativity out there. Perhaps the only way to do so is by shutting yourself off from online communities. But that would be a shame.

Instead, look to surround yourself with those you can converse with and learn from. On platforms such as Twitter, it’s easy enough to go through your follow list and remove those who don’t fit that profile.

The same thing goes for communities themselves. If you see a lot of nonsense in a particular space, you might save yourself the headache by avoiding it altogether. There are better alternatives.

For example, there are some well-moderated Facebook groups for web professionals where members are expected to behave themselves – and held to account when they don’t.

One of the best aspects of the web design community is that it’s a big place. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to connect with others. It could be online or in-person. Either way, it’s worth exploring.

A person pushes a pin into a map.

Remember, We’re All on a Unique Journey

Self-worth can be a fragile thing. And seeing someone else criticize something you’re invested in can cause doubt. You may start to wonder if you’re wasting precious time with an “inferior” tool.

But the road to a career in web design isn’t the same for everyone. Some study it in school while others learn on their own. There’s no singular “right” way to do it.

That’s important to remember, as our personal journey informs how we view the world. These different experiences can lead us to form strong opinions about a specific tool or technology. It’s not necessarily a negative. I think it’s just part of being human.

Negativity is all around us. Yet, no rule says we have to let it affect who we are. The beauty is that we get to decide our own path. If you enjoy working within your niche, keep on doing it!

As for the naysayers, let them continue shouting into the void.

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