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 reading 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.”
Hate-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.