The Fine Art of Hate-Following
And how it can actually be good for you.
This segment is from the Large Almond Latte Podcast episode "The Fine Art of Hate Following."
You know those people on social media that are doing it all wrong? You find their content objectionable, they drive you crazy, but you’re absolutely not going to stop following them, because the buzz you get from eye-rolling their posts is better than finally getting to each brunch in a real café. It’s like a car crash, you can’t stop looking, and screenshotting and sharing with your friends for discussion in your group chat. It’s called ‘hate-following.’
According to people with ‘Doctor’ and ‘Psychology’ in their title, there are a bunch of different emotions that cause us to take to these posts like a dog to a treat and ‘hate’ is not even on the radar, which is why the name feels a little inaccurate and aggressive. But, the term also covers the extremists, like ‘anti-fans,’ losers locked up in their parent’s basement who get joy from straight-up trolling and bitching on celebs and influencers. But we are absolutely not about that life, so I’m going to go rogue and dispute the dictionary definition, because yes this is in the dictionary, Urban Dictionary, but dictionary all the same. I’m going to call this concept ‘contempt-following,’
In a recent study I just made up, at least 10% of our time spent on social media is spent ‘contempt following.’ Okay, there are no official stats, but we all do it. And while it’s a real slippery slope into 'Burn Book' territory, if you follow the rules, contempt following can actually be good for you.
So, who are these people that we love to not love?
The over-sharer will share everything on socials from their most recent pap-smear results and videos of them doing reps at the gym to the settings they wash their towels on. While other people are sharing their bests life on social media, the oversharers are sharing their whole life on social media. Posting 5-7 times a day, they love a live stream, where they can share their daily thoughts as if they’re profound philosophical breakthroughs. Although they are definitely not Voltaire, I am invested. In some weird, virtual Stockholm situation, they’ve kidnapped my feed, but now I kind of love it.
Journalism might be an industry in decline, but these friends would have no problem getting a job at a digital media outlet because they are elite ‘click baiters.’ You may recognise statuses such as ‘So-and-so has a really hard decision to make...,’ or ‘Sometimes it’s just not meant to be...’ These friends also love a cryptic quote post, like “With every sunset comes a new dawn.” What do any of these things mean? I haven’t seen or spoken to you in 10 years so I’m obviously not going to ask you, but I’ll deeply stalk you across all channels like a digital Sherlock Holmes until I solve the mystery of the ‘life-changing decision you just had to make.’
The ‘Social Media is my therapy’
Similar to the over-sharer, they have no virtual boundaries, but unlike the over-sharer, they save up all their posts for one giant spicy drama in their life. During said life event, they will vent to their imaginary social audience, and in doing so SPILL ALL THE TEA. These are a step up from vague-bookers IMO, because you don’t have to do any digging. It’s all there. Recently, I watched a divorce unfold over Facebook between two bodybuilders. It was through a series of back and forth grammatically incorrect, thesis length statuses. It was so juicy, it legit ended up in the UK paper ‘The Sun.’
Exes – (Ex-Friends, Ex-Boyfriends, Ex-Family Members)
They might actually be living a completely socially acceptable life in your eyes, but it’s the offline contempt for them you have for them that encourages you do a deep dive into their Instagram every few months... being extra careful not to double-tap a pic for three years ago...
The Split Personality
You were once friends with them, probably periphery friends, but their social media has revealed another side to the person you met through a friend in University. Popular in this category are those who turn out to be on the bottom rung of a pyramid scheme. The MLMers. It might start out with them sliding into your DMs ‘Hey, I saw you post about being so tired the other day, I have something so amazing that can help you.’ Nek minute they’re trying to sell you Arbonne or Essential Oils. Abort. In this category, you will also find those engaged in illegal activities, crystal healers, ‘Onlyfans’ enthusiasts and general beginner influencers. It’s fertile popcorn territory.
The Unsolicited Advice Givers
This is typically an influencer who has posted a picture of themselves which is completely separate to the context of the text, which is something along the lines of encouraging you to live your best life, give to charity, stand tall, don’t body shame, be sustainable, just be happy. Really, influencers could have several of their own subcategories, but that’s too much for one ep. See also: Facebook Experts.
I’ve obviously saved the best until last. They froth a Youtube video in replacement of science. While scrolling you will likely mutter ‘herd immunity’ under your breath, several times. In this category, you can also include ‘virus deniers’ and ‘Trump Supporters’.
We definitely don’t hate any of these people, but what is about them that makes watching it more addictive to us than crack- and how is this good for us, really?
We Love Drama
Psychiatrists believe we have an internal thermostat and the spicier the drama, the hotter we get because have an innate addiction to chaos. Pics of you drinking with your friends on a Saturday night are nice, but if you and your friend start throwing your drinks at each other while live streaming, my thermostat is heating up real quick.
It’s good for you because it’s stimulating if we’re feeling sluggish or low, (which are two major sponsors of 2020), this can pick us up, and make us feel alive and energised, which is great news for our mental health.
We’re Curious (nosy)
These people are not like us. If they were, their posts wouldn’t stand out like the sole diversity pick in The Bachelor. So, we’re curious to understand why they believe that celery juice will protect them from Covid-19, and why people are liking their posts. According to cyberhate expert Ginger Gorman, we’re trying to push ourselves outside our comfort zones to consume the information we don’t agree with in order to expand our thinking. Offline, this is why I loved the female republican storyline in The Bold Type. It was meant to be uncomfortable and thought-provoking. While Us Academics are actively attempting to add breadth to our knowledge base, we all know the internet is not a space for balanced two-sided discussions. You’re either educated or you’re an idiot, and as Ginger concludes, in most cases of curiosity, the result tends to reinforce our original opinions.
Directing Anger and Anxiety
Contempt following can also have practical benefits, says author Kerry Sackville. It can give us a safe outlet for directing our anger and anxiety. In another study I just made up, 2020 has been a shit year for 98% of us, so we have a lot to be angry about. We’re not getting on the comments section and trolling, we’re using contempt following to trigger a rush of adrenaline and release our pent-up anger and anxiety in a positive way. It’s kind of to the thrill of drama, it revitalises us. So, read a bunch of dumb shit on Pete Evans FB page, then go for a run. Good tip Nicole, I’ll be back into pre-baby shape in no time. Journo Joel Gilby wrote that he gets mad online in a way that gives him energy. It makes him feel a foot taller, like he can shoot fire from his fingertips.
Social psychiatrist Dr Erin Vogel argues that we’re all just 'such nice people', that as much as watching our colleagues dancing on TikTok might make us cringe, we also can’t look away, because we feel so much guilt if we do.
Oh, hello green-eyed monster. Like the white stuff, this one is hard to swallow, but we definitely want the perf life. Hot bod, rich (obvi), invited to the best events (that’d you probably decline anyway, because ceebs), and often our contempt following stems from jealousy, because we’re following people who project that perfect life that we want. Even though our mind knows that 20cm waists and 120cm hips are 300% photoshopped, our eyes are like, “They’re better than us.” It’s irritating, but also addictive says Dr Vogel.
However, as irritating as they are, envy can actually be motivating. Yeah, like it’s kind of annoying to see Kardashian bods sipping Vodka Cruisers on 75-foot yachts with their Hemsworth-esq SOs, but it "can encourage you to go after those same goals yourself,” says Dr Rutledge. It’s a balancing act, because while it can be inspirational, it has to be achievable and too much can make you feel substandard and inadequate. Like Heidi Klum returning to the Victoria’s secret runway in 2009, five weeks post-partum was and is not achievable for mere muggles. I’ve accepted that thanks to my bebe, I will have a saggy gunt for the rest of my life and that this summer I will have to replace all 300 pairs of my skimpy, Brazilian bikini bottoms with high-waisted bottoms and one-pieces, but I’m still motivated to achieve a place in life where I can drink cruisers on a yacht by finding success with at least one of my Get Rich Quick Schemes. Which, not be a previously mentioned Vague Booker, but I do have something in the works I’ll be able to share in a few weeks. Like using contempt following to release your anxiety, it’s about taking the negative energy and turning it into a positive.
Feeling Better About Ourselves
It’s innate that we will automatically compare ourselves to others, according to Leon Festinger’s social comparison theory. So, while we would never post a public rant about our ex-boyfriend already posting pictures with his new girlfriend and they bought a dog together, even though we’re still sleeping together, seeing other people do something we wouldn’t can make us feel better. Ginger Gorman argues that by downward comparison, we feel a sense of superiority when we compare ourselves to these people. We’re basically gloating by elevating ourselves at the expense of someone else.
And that’s why we share it too, so we can all feel good about ourselves together. And yeah, I’m so guilty of this. When I see a post from Pete Evans and friends, I do feel superior, because I know ‘survival of the fittest’ is on my side.
There are definite therapeutic and practical benefits to the ‘contempt-follow’ but if you don’t keep yourself in check, you’re either going to go full Regina George on yourself, or on the source and neither of those is good for your juju, so to reap the benefits you have to follow rules:
The Rules of Contempt Following
1. Don’t @ Them
Quietly chuckling to yourself over their latest post in a bikini, but wearing a facemask, holding a handful of crystals, at a gym, where the caption expresses their disappointment at their dreams being shattered because they can’t move to London this year is one thing, but leaving a comment to tell them they haven’t photoshopped their waist evenly just makes you a bitch.
2. Get Off Your Phone
There are no hard rules about a ‘proper dose’ of time to spend online, according to Dr Vogel. And thank God, because we’d all be doing some serious jail time if there was. But, we also know the internet is full of black holes and like a fuckboi, they’re nothing but bad news. When you feel yourself seeing black, it’s time to lock your phone in a box for a few hours.
3. Remember What’s Behind the Screen
Remember your Facebook statuses from 2011? Imagine if you were defined by those. Mortifying. like ‘Tequila, Tequila, Tequila’ or ‘Never drinking again.’ I literally just did a quick click on the old Facebook memories to find those, and obviously the quick conclusion is 'rehab is required for this gal.' Dr Vogal says to remember that “people are multidimensional and behind every post is a human.” Sometimes they’re shit humans, but that doesn’t mean we should be too.
4. Feel Hate, Spread Love.
Even if you don't... Source: GIPHY
It’s only natural we’re going to feel jealousy, curiously, anger and disdain. You shouldn’t feel bad about feeling human emotions, you’re not Siri. I’ve just realised I am not an Unsolicited Advice Giver. it’s cathartic to release those emotions, but Dr Vogel. says that the highest road you can take is to be supportive. This is definitely above me, and obviously, you would only do this if their viewpoint is harmless like you’re not going to congratulate anti-vaxxers for successfully winning a fight with the state government to send their unvaccinated child to primary school, but maybe you could congratulate your friend posting their workout stats every lunchtime.
If you’re not reaping any benefits and it’s just toxic, like Andrea Bocelli, sung 'Time to say goodbye.’ Get motivated by your contempt follows that post their Sunday meal prep, but if it gets to the point where you feel bad about yourself or feel the need to start bitching about them, It’s time to go. Goodbye.
Contempt-following is something we all do as a result of our natural instincts, but being cognisant of where to draw the line is the difference between mental elevation and needing to repent for our sins.
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