Online hate is poisoning our brains. Online hate can have real physical consequences. Constant exposure can send your body into survival mode; causing anxiety, insomnia and depression. Hate is making us sick.
So, why have we become so hateful? Pre the era of social media it was hard work to hate people. If you wanted to say something vile you had to really commit. It was awkward and a bit terrifying. You had to stop a person in the street, or shout abuse at them in the street from your car. Sometimes you had to ride your bike around to their house with eggs. Sometimes you had to get their address so you could send a letter that said ‘Go back to where you came from’ or ‘You look like a man you femmo bitch’ or ‘Fuck off!’ It was so much effort – most people didn’t bother. It was a waste of a stamp and your lick.
Some people expressed their hate by putting dogshit in a brown paper bag and setting it on fire on your front doorstep. Think about this; you had to put shit in a bag. You had to get a bag and pick up a dog shit. Then you had to travel with said bag to the destination. And wait in the bushes with bagged shit. That’s visceral.
Someone once graffitied the front door of the Echo with ‘F*CK YOU MANDY ASSHOLE C*NT’. I was touched. They had gone to the trouble of buying paint, finding out where I work and turning up at night to do the hate installation. Nowadays when someone wants to abuse me they just write a comment on a post. It’s so boring. Old hate was much more creative. If you were going to bother, you needed to show a little flair!
Now with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Messenger and WhatsApp and email and everything ‘e’ we can deliver hate instantly. We can hurt people, and not even leave the house. We can start fights and never go into the street. We can be abusive and bullying without ever having the courage to stand in our humanness and watch how those words land. We can feel powerful in front of our screens. We can rage. We can accuse. We can torment. We can belittle. We can judge. We can vilify.
It’s ugly and clearly it’s addictive. People get off on it. And you know why? Because the part of the brain that lights up when we hate is the same part that lights up when we love. Hating is a primitive human thrill. We hate because we fear the other. We fear ideas that challenge us. Instead of taking on the idea or engaging in a rational argument, we choose to demolish the person who delivers the idea. Social media has created tribes of people who share the same penchant for what they hate. They congregate in chat rooms and community groups for a pile on. You create a hate community – allegiances with others who share your hate. This is the bizarre bonding of bullies. Sad lonely little people quietly holding hands with their hate mates.
Clinical psychologists believe that what we hate about others are things we fear in ourselves. We engage in what Freud termed ‘projection’. This is our need to be good which causes us to project badness outward and attack it. This is why we hate and judge others.
People who hate regularly should be aware of how transparent they actually are. We can see your shame. We can see your lack of self-compassion and how you use hate to distract from your deep feelings of helplessness and inadequacy.
It’s sad. They’re so close to using that part of the brain for what it is best designed for: love. But they fucked it. Our poor haters need hater lovers.
So, next time someone says something vile on your thread – send them love. They might be hurting you, but they are the saddest people of all. Imagine having to be them.
I would hate that.