I know what you mean, but this isn't half as bad as it is in the some of the "Blogger" photo circles, where everything is wonderful, even when it's crap. I used to participate in some groups where I eventually thought to myself "if I see one more person saying how wonderful a really bad photo is, I will barf on my monitor."
I think it really boils down to comments. People like return visits and lots of positive comments, and they believe that if they say nice things, that will draw return visits and nice comments in return.
I've been guilty of the same thing many times. Where I like a person, but their current photo isn't so great, and instead of letting them have it, I say something short and meaningless, just to let them know I stopped by.
Of the times that I have left actual constructive criticism, I have gotten mixed responses, from no return visit at all, to returned sharp criticism. Sometimes it turn out just fine - depending on the person.
I do think there are people out there who's feelings are easily hurt, so whether to speak freely, or not, is sometimes a difficult line to draw.
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