The Hater in All of Us
Samantha Bee is currently my favorite political commentator. She has the edge that Trevor Noah is missing. Combine that with The Colbert Show-era wit and a humanistic common sense-you've got a winner. However, if you aren't staunchly liberal, she's not for you. She skewers the GOP week after week with no remorse. Every Wednesday night, she fires up the grill for some good ole fashioned Republican lawmaker kabob. Yet this doesn't stop conservatives from tuning in.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, she said, “People love to hate-watch, and we’re cool with that. The more the merrier.”
It’s a noble outlook on her behalf. She welcomes the ire of her conservative onlookers. When it comes to TV, viewers are viewers, regardless of their political stance. While I appreciated her embrace of the opposition, I wondered why these people kept watching if they hated it so much.
I thought, why would anyone purposefully invest time in watching something just to trash it? I would never do that. Oh, wait. Yes, I would.
"I thought, why would anyone purposefully invest time in watching something just to trash it? I would never do that. Oh, wait. Yes, I would."
It was then I realized I was already doing that. But instead of watching a fiery weekly political news show with an opposing view, I was hate watching a Facebook group and a handful of frenemies. I was hate reading their posts, questioning their motives, complaining about their content. I was hate following people and allowing it to consume large parts of my mental and emotional spaces.
Last year, I wrote about a friend whose misery and jealousy prevented her from being a supportive player in my life. I distanced myself from her and didn’t invite her to my wedding despite years of brunches, happy hours and dinners. Her lack of support ruined our friendship, and excluding her from my nuptials was the final nail in the coffin.
Or was it?
I followed her on Instagram for 8 months after I wrote that essay. I haven’t seen her since late 2015, but I was well versed in what was happening in her life. I harbored resentment for her. When she finally ended up in a relationship with someone, I counted down the days until she fucked it all up. I knew that no man could fix her deep, emotional problems. When she started deleting his photos from her page and posted that she thought she’d never get married, I felt a tinge of cold delight. She deserved it—because she’d been so awful to me. Because she refused to take accountability for her actions.
It was vindication. Not only had she been responsible for sabotaging our relationship, but she was sinking other ones, too.
I was disappointed in myself. Over the last couple years, I’ve worked hard to keep my spaces positive. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, digitally. Yet, there was a part of me that delighted in this negativity. In celebrating her downfall, her missteps and her misfortune.
"There was a part of me that delighted in this negativity. In celebrating her downfall, her missteps and her misfortune."
Every time I went to her Instagram page, I was pulled right back into my emotions about our friendship. My anger was as fresh as it was eight months prior. I found myself recalling our disagreements and logging every little thing she’d ever done wrong.
I’d told my readers that I was done with her. But until I pressed the unfollow button, I was still in a relationship with her. An unhealthy one that didn’t allow me to move on. Hate following her was an action that prevented me from growing—one that put me in touch with an ugly side of myself that I didn’t like.
Over the holidays, I finally unfollowed her, silencing that nasty little voice in my head that found joy in her misery. She unfollowed me less than 24 hours later. It seemed she’d been doing the same thing, too. Neither one of us wanted to actively participate in the relationship but we kept watching each other, waiting for the other one to stumble.
According to a 2014 piece from Vice, we hate follow people to feel better about our own lives. We use someone else’s content as a means of therapy. We essentially have to step on their heads to get to new emotional heights.
However, it doesn’t feel good. Maybe in the moment there’s some immediate benefit. But over time, taking part in trashing someone else is really just a reflection of ourselves. The worst part of ourselves. We don’t stand to gain any real benefit from hate following people. We get our blood boiling. We superficially compare ourselves to these people and feel like we come out on top. But they’re really the winners.
"We don’t stand to gain any real benefit from hate following people. they’re really the winners."
They’ve sucked up our time and energy. They’ve kept us engaged in their lives, affecting our energy and mindset. Though we feel like we’re accomplishing something, we’re just moving in circles, spiraling deeper into darkness. The only cure is to turn them off. Unfollow them. Mute them. Block them. Get them out of our lives once and for all.
It might feel great to poke fun at someone or something when you’re down in the dumps. But how about getting out of the dumps and staying there? That’s the best feeling. Trust me, now that I’m up here, I’m never going back.