I have a confession to make.
I struggle too.
I am an advocate for building up cognitive dissonance within the self, creating the ability to accept the tension between what you believe to be true and taking in something that is poised as being the opposite of that. Being able to live with this tension allows one to deal with people outside the immediate social circle, manufacturing mutual respect, and paving pathways to peace–or at least the avoidance of violence.
I’ve suggested before that we should build in a diversity of voices into our lives and the feeds that we consume–whether they be online or elsewhere. I’ve tried to do this, but I lean a certain way and its easy to commit to leaning this way. After all, we like to read things that we agree with. I was thinking about why it is we stick around people whom we tend to have the same social, political, and religious leanings and I think it’s because it is exhausting not to. Being around someone who thinks the opposite of you is tiring, every statement can be contradicted and one must carefully consider everything they say and whether they want to respond to the other. Nobody really desires to live in constant, expressed disagreement. This is why family get togethers are notoriously stressful–that tension is carefully hanging in the balance of every conversation.
I find it hard when perusing my feeds to accept the tension of another’s opinion. I notice a desire in myself to categorize things that appear into two broad places: ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’. Instead of dealing with the author’s arguments, I brush it off as being ‘incorrect’ garbage and move onto something I find to be more in line with my already existing beliefs. Again, cognitive dissonance is exhausting.
This lately has taken form in another desire, this I will call from here on out the Hate-Read (yes, hyphenated and doubly capitalized, this is real). The Hate-Read is what happens when one reads an article with the sole purpose of despising it; to set off those little tingles in one’s brain that lets them know that they are not only better than the author but anybody who would actually think this way. Sentence by sentence a righteous anger builds mixed with guffaws at how idiotic that person is for contributing such trash to the world. There is no better way to feel great about one’s lifestyle than to read something trashy written by or about people with the opposing point of view. This is what the Hate-Read is all about.
This is tricky, because for someone who has advocated for other points of view to be consistently present in each of our lives, Hate-Reads can become material to prove to ourselves that the opposite side is completely wrong while also saying that we’ve given them a chance. Then we can go subtweet about how this article we read was so awful and we cannot believe people think this way.
This is the pop cultural equivalent of hating on Coldplay or Transformers, yes we get it they are not that good and may even be posing as thoughtful pieces of art, but spending so much time hating on it is only to make yourself feel good about your superior tastes.
The Hate-Read is out there and yes it happens because some people write some hyperbolic and stupid stuff, but reading stupid stuff to elevate your own pride is just as useless and self-serving.