I am on the record, several times I think, as being in favor of critique. Over the last year or so, my thinking has, shall we say, evolved. Mainly because I've been watching the process as it plays out on the internet in some detail.
I still believe in it. How can I not? If Art in general, and photography in particular, is about communication, how can we not devote some effort to testing and refining our ability to communicate?
Now, though, I think one must take at least a two pronged approach. Really useful critique of an individual piece has to be a conversation, you have to probe a little. This means that you need to find someone who will put up with a conversation, who is willing to be probed a little. Good luck with that, they're out there, but they're wildly outnumbered by pompous asses who want to force you to comply with local norms.
This does not mean that you should ignore the pompous asses and their local norms. The little bits of local dogma that circulate in one context or another (and they are local, they'll always cite Rembrandt but that's a bunch of rubbish) are based on something and it's not a waste of time to work out what the something is. You can add that to your little store of ideas, of things people like. Occasionally you can add it to your list of things not to do.
In any case, when you're dealing with the tribal behaviors of a camera club or internet group of some sort, keep in mind that you're not there to "learn" what they tell you. As a general, albeit not universal, rule they have nothing of interest to tell you. You are there to unpack their belief system, and to get at the underlying ideas of it. That's actually interesting.
So, just smile, nod, and think "idiot" very very quietly to yourself. And keep your eyes open for someone who's open to a conversation.
At some point I'm going to investigate paying for portfolio review. With the right person, I suspect this might be useful. Mostly, of course, the people offering to do it are charlatans, but I'm pretty sure they're not all.