I have seen a tendency online for a lot of communities - especially ones in various creative arts, populated primarily by amateurs - to want to be so welcoming that they frown on any sort of criticism, constructive of otherwise, because it's not seen as being welcoming. I am trying to find a word or short phrase that captures this tendency, specific to creative communities rejecting any sort of criticism whatsoever.

This is different than a community that is merely supportive; this is in regards to a community that is supportive to a fault and does not allow for any sort of constructive criticism that would help members of the community to grow and improve.

The closest I've seen is "hugbox," but that is an incredibly ableist slur, and is also used in other senses as well (often a casual dismissal of a supportive community, or as a form of "groupthink" which is also not the same thing).

Clarification: What I'm talking about is this sort of behavior:

Person A: Here's a song I made. Tell me what you think!

Person B: The music itself is pretty good, but the overwhelming effect processing on the vocals makes it difficult to understand what the singer is singing.

Person C: B, please don't be so negative. We're trying to build a positive community here. A, your song is fine the way it is.

  • Maybe 'overprotective'. Do you want a noun or an adjective? Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 21:16
  • Do you mean a one or two words expression for "online communities that are intolerant to criticism" ? something like "one-track thinking community" or sectarian community.
    – Graffito
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 21:21
  • @chaslyfromUK "Overprotective" is a good adjective to describe the tendency itself but I was hoping for a word that encapsulates the community itself. Like the pejorative (but unacceptable) "hugbox."
    – fluffy
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:13
  • 3
    Other (pejorative?) adjectives: "self-indulgent" or "auto-congratulatory".
    – Graffito
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:24
  • 2
    How does back-scratching community fit? It doesn't directly imply that criticism is not acceptable, but it does imply that comments are typically obsequious behaviour for the purpose of gaining favour. Other possible synonyms: boot-licking, ass-kissing, flattering, fawning, toady, apple-polishing Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 10:13

10 Answers 10


How about an echo chamber community or simply echo chamber? Which would be a community where everybody agrees with everybody, and no criticism is allowed.

echo chamber

  1. A person who totally, obsequiously agrees with everything another person says.

  2. An insular communication space where everyone agrees with the information and no outside input is allowed.

I've seen it used mainly negatively, as in "I'm not your echo chamber" or "The church is not your echo chamber".

  • "Echo chamber" isn't what I'm going for - that's just people who repeat the same opinions as each other and quash dissenting opinions. What I'm talking about is communities where dissent never even comes up because the mere act of providing any sort of criticism whatsoever is frowned upon.
    – fluffy
    Commented Oct 13, 2015 at 23:12
  • @fluffy Doesn't your example include dissent being quashed? The dissenting opinion is that constructive criticism is a valid response, and the person is being told that criticism is never necessary. The identical opinion being perpetuated is that creative works are acceptable as a personal expression, without any need for technical or aesthetic criticism. I think echo chamber fits perfectly.
    – recognizer
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 17:49
  • @recognizer I see your point, although I still don't think it really fits. People aren't bristling at the "dissenting opinion" (that criticism is valuable) so much as the mere act of criticism. But maybe I'm not accepting of criticism in this regard myself. ;)
    – fluffy
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 20:38
  • @fluffy - I think an echo chamber still fits. - Yes a echo chamber repeats the accepted dogma... at the same time of suppressing alternative views.
    – dwjohnston
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 21:10


Merriam Webster: "having feelings that are very easily hurt: very strongly and easily affected or harmed by something (such as a drug)"

The Free Dictionary: "1. having unduly vulnerable feelings; 2.(Pathology) abnormally sensitive to an allergen, a drug, or other agent."

Macmillan Dictionary: "very easily upset or offended."

Although the word seems to have started out as describing an abnormally sensitive physiological response to drugs or allergens, it has come to also mean an abnormal or at least unusually sensitive psychlogical response to perceived slights or criticisms.

Sentence: "My daughter is hypersensitive to everything I say about her hair, her clothes or her friends. I can't say anything right!"

An addition: The following may be too strong:

Enosiophobia is the fear of criticism. I doubt the groups of which you speak are composed solely enosiophobes, but a key person, who sets the tone for the others, might be one. See Designed Thinking


  • Hm, this is good, but not great. So far the best one I've seen though.
    – fluffy
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 2:32
  • @fluffy -- Always happy to search for greatness! Are any of these going in the right direction: " excessively prickly"; "clannish"; " a community that reflexively circles its wagons". Can't spend more time on Answers right now....
    – ab2
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 2:55
  • 1
    @fluffy We'd like to see a little more positivity from you, please! Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 17:19
  • Still don't have the leisure to write an Answer, but I think this is an interesting and important question. How can anyone succeed if they can't take constructive criticism (CC)? So I throw out these ideas for anyone to develop into an Answer if they want. "Afraid to Face the Music" (the music being CC); "Living in a bubble or dream-world" (the real world is harsh with criticism); "perennial amateurs" (forget about paying audiences if you can't take CC); dilettantes or hobbyists (forget about an audience, period, if you can't take CC); "setting a low bar"; .'"mutual appreciation society".
    – ab2
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 17:34

A circlejerk fits what you're describing here.

A literal circlejerk is a sex act where several men line up in a circle and each man masturbates the man next to him.

This term is applied for figuratively for a community where the foundation of the community is providing validation to others, while receiving validation yourself.


Uncritical means "not expressing criticism or using one's critical faculties" (OED) and has a pejorative sense (at least in my idiolect).

You might describe the community in your example as being one of uncritical reinforcement.

  • In a literal sense this works well but at least in standard US English I don't think this quite captures what I'm going for. It's a good adjective to keep in mind though!
    – fluffy
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 2:32

“Militantly positive community”? “Militantly uncritical"? "Militantly optimistic”? “Uncritically, militantly supportive”? “Cult of positivity?” “Raised By Boomers, Everyone’s a Winner?”*

*David Foster Wallace’s—not mine
  • "Cult of positivity" sounds pretty good.
    – fluffy
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 17:09

A community that is overly against criticism (constructive or not) may be called defensive. According to Dictionary.com ...

  1. excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one's ego, or exposure of one's shortcomings.

To emphasize this trait or make clear, one may prefer overly-defensive.

  • I liked this at first, but the more I think about it, the more I think it doesn't fit what the OP wants. To call a community defensive readily suggests either (1) that the members of the community are defensive of some ideas or practices which all its members jointly hold, or (2) that each member of the community is defensive of their own ideas or practices (which are not necessarily uniform throughout the community). The OP's sense might be accessible, but it's not the first that surfaces, at least for me.
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 0:00
  • For my sake, please define the OP's sense, which you refer to.
    – Ben
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 0:22
  • The sense that's trying to be captured relates to a community whose members are overly protective not of the COMMON practices of the members or of their OWN (i.e. reflexive) individual practices, but of the practices of OTHER MEMBERS.
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 0:36
  • If I'm correct, you suspect that calling a community defensive misrepresents the targeted population of which the community is defending against. I agree that defensive may not be the best fit, but as you stated, what you believe it "readily suggests" seems to be of your personal interpretation, not the definition.
    – Ben
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 0:52
  • Yeah I certainly wasn't giving the definition. Just giving some native speaker intuitions regarding the semantics of the word when it is used to modify 'community'. Definitions are usually not fine grained enough to cover all compositional aspects of meaning.
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 1:44

The community is engaging in the psychological phenomenon known as groupthink. Although I don't have a great adjective to describe the a community engaging in groupthink (self-indulgent? sensitive to criticism?).


Mutual Admiration Society

Wiktionary: "A group of two or more people, in a workplace or other social environment, who routinely express considerable esteem and support for one another, sometimes to the point of exaggeration or pretense."

Mutual Admiration Society (MAS) is a pejorative phrase. As the definition says, members of the MAS go beyond being supportive, and as the following illustrative sentence from Wiktionary shows, are annoying to dispassionate outsiders.

"Those two are incessantly flattering one another. They've formed an utterly nauseating mutual admiration society!"

"Mutual Admiration Society" is a song from the '50s -- sample of lyrics from Wikipedia: The tune is said to be catchy.

"We belong to a Mutual Admiration Society,

My baby and me.

We belong to a Mutual Admiration Society"


Upon asking on Twitter, nobody could come up with an existing phrase that captured the expression particularly well, but some people took it upon themselves to coin new phrases for this phenomenon. Two phrases that I particularly liked (despite being adaptations of existing phrases):

  • Fart party
  • Cuddle puddle
  • Mutual admiration society
  • Along these lines and with inspiration from @ab2 ‘s “circle the wagons,” there’s always “circle jerk,” although it probably lacks the pejorative punch that you seek. “There’s negativity all about, fellows! Circle the wagons, close ranks and let’s beat it off with an old-fashion circle jerk!”
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 18:33
  • @PapaPoule "Circle jerk" has come up as a suggestion as well but I had reasons for not thinking it worked for this particular thing. But maybe it does.
    – fluffy
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 20:34
  • Not that I'd suggest it in anything but a comment, here's a discussion of the term on Reddit (written as one word, to boot!) that might help you to decide whether to include it on the above list
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 21:10
  • @PapaPoule I think that discussion only reinforces why I don't think "circle jerk" works - a typical circlejerk doesn't accept new members in unless they repeat the same dogma as others, whereas one of these things I'm talking about welcomes EVERYONE on the basis that nobody should be excluded and nothing should be considered bad. (Of course this naturally excludes people who do want actual discourse/criticism.)
    – fluffy
    Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 23:33

Such determined, aggressive optimism could well be called pollyannaish. The original Polly Anna was simply unquenchably optimistic, but the term is often used pejoratively, and this would seem to be an appropriate example.

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