Hate-Reading: Queasy Diet for the Soul

The second I saw the article in the New York Times (Style Section, page 19, Sept. 22, 2013) I knew it was worth a blog post. The article was about deliberately Life-Is-Good2reading social media posts that make us angry, crazy, upset or fills us with fury over someone’s perceived hypocrisy, goody-two-shoe-attitude or some other feeling we hate to feel but can’t stay away from. It’s called hate reading, and it seems a lot of people are caught up in it. Considering the comments I see on Twitter (about the new, East-Indian Miss America, for example), there is a lot of free-floating hatred.

The article cites different kinds of hate-reading. One person is tired of seeing endless posts from a friend about her dog and kids. Another person hate-reads an acquaintance’s relentlessly cheerful, hope-filled messages and wants to demand proof of that emotion.

Katie J. M. Baker, who writes for Jezebel, says, “Our motives rarely come from a position of strength . . . when I walk away from my computer, I feel like I’ve just binged on a butter-sogged bag of popcorn before the movie even started; I’m slightly nauseated but still can’t help licking my fingers for more fatty flavor.”

Dislike-Social-Media3Hate-reading fuels up our negative energy. Much like binging on sugar, it makes us feel oddly exhilarated to have caught someone in a lie, hypocritical posing or overt bragging, but the crash is as bad as the push up the emotion was gratifying.

The article says we downward-compare to feel better. But the feeling doesn’t last.

Professor Alexander H. Jordan, an adjunct assistant professor of business administration at Dartmouth, says “It’s when a person’s typically rose self-view is temporarily threatened that self-enhancement processes, such as finding people to ‘hate’ online, are triggered.”

Of course, the people we hate (or hate-read) become tethered to us emotionally, and, like an addiction, we continue the behavior.

We used to engage in this behavior only with celebrities, “hating” an actress when we didn’t know her personally at all, and simply drew conclusions from photographs and our own opinions.

And still, and still, we all want to be loved and heard. But it’s so hard to do it for others. Something interesting to think about, for sure.

Quinn McDonald is not above hate-reading. She’s going cold-turkey after reading the article. She’s received emails from people who hate her without knowing her, and has decided negative energy needs doesn’t need to be stored.  It can’t be harder than giving up sugar.

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20 thoughts on “Hate-Reading: Queasy Diet for the Soul

  1. I stopped watching the news a few months ago for this very reason and now I have Netflix so I don’t have to watch TV commercials anymore. I found myself being angry all the time at world events, politicians, etc. so it was time to make a change. I have also stopped engaging with certain people in my life who just like to whine but do nothing to change the things whine about over and over again. I am much happier now and really striving to stay positive. It’s difficult in this media world filled with negativity and just plain nastiness.

  2. “There is a lot of free-flowing hatred.” This caught my eye. Why do you think this is? Is it due to the ability to spew hatred without consequences (the anonymity of the internet), the current economic environment which causes uncertainty and distress, the instant acess to news and information (true and not true) which causes overload? Then – I also wonder is it that there is more hatred flowing now or was it kept more localized in earlier times?

    In any event, I seldom “hate-read” (for want of a better term). Life is too short to add more aggravation to my life!

    • I think all this free-flowing hatred comes from several sources: 1. Anonymity of the internet. 2. A need to control things in life that are not controllable. (e.g. other people), 3. A feeling of lack of community (the internet often isolates us more than unifies us). 4. A feeling that we are missing something or not completely connected to everything we need to know, 5. Anger, often fueled by opinions not based on fact, but passed off as fact, often combined with hate speech.

  3. If I can’t do anything about it I don’t listen/read/whatever: I’ll listen to your woes if I can help . . . even by just listening . . . but don’t rant gossip and garbage, I have far too much to do. Above don’t complain about your partner/boss/friend/mother/life unless you’re prepared to DO something . . . ANYTHING!

    I don’t care who the so-called celebrities are, what they do, with whom. I know there are atrocitoes occuring and where but I don’t need the details thanks. If someone lives their life through their dog/cat/partner then let them as I can just move on past their verbiage. I choose what I engage in and it’s positive.

    I need my emotions intact to respond to living because I have a life of my own and I rather like it and I like to share the fruits of it . . . but there’s not a lot of interest in it for others unless I completely foul up I guess.

    A small part of me just wants to say “Grow up!” but I don’t need to because they either will or they won’t and it won’t affect me one jot.

    • I once read a heartbreaking goodbye to “Steve” on Facebook, and thought it was the woman’s husband (“we’ve been together through life’s ups and downs for 17 years). So I wrote her a condolence note. Well, it wasn’t her husband it was her dog, but luckily, she didn’t know what I thought, so it was OK with her. And boy am I with you about DOing something if you are unhappy. And not being patient with not-doers!

  4. This used to be seen around the breakfast or dinner table (depending on when the newspaper got delivered) and Grandpa would wax choleric about the OPED or letters to the Editor from “Those uninformed idiots!” It seems far more widespread because the Internet has made it far more accessible to everyone all the time. Look how fast even reasonable conversations devolve into “Flame Wars” in blogs and newsgroups devoted to anything where controversy can creep in. People love to feel righteous.

  5. I don’t tweet and twitter but I did have this experience on FB. I learned that one can go to settings and click on hide from news feed. No unfriendling required, but you will never cross paths with those kids and dogs again. Wish we Texans could find the mute and go away button for Ted Cruz but that may require more technology!

    • Facebook is a huge contributor to hate-reading. Not FB’s fault, of course. And yes, there are people whose newsfeed you should hide and people you should unfollow. I’m sorry about Ted Cruz. Maybe you could give him back to Canada.

  6. The NYT article says an interesting thing about the weird (to me) combination of celebrities and tabloids. It’s only a sort-of explanation, but the first I’ve run into.

    • Pete: We as humans LOVE gossip. Men, Women, Children, we all love it. And it is always juicier and more fulfilling if it is gossip about people WE know. Whether they know us or not. Tabloids appeal to several facets of human nature that we would rather not acknowledge: voyeurism, the fascination with an accident in progress, glamour, crime stories, glamour and of course – gossip. They learned about 25 or 30 years ago that gossip outsells all the others.

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