There’s a lot of stuff bothering us. Politics. Social issues. Societal changes. You name it, there’s someone or something to loathe.
It’s safe to say that we’ve always been this way, but for Wes Parham, an organizational analyst with WEEW consulting and author of “Be a Hater: A Polemic on the Hater Mindset,” our refusal to engage with our dissenters dates back at least to 2014 with the “shake it off” in chief Taylor Swift.
That’s when the former country singer released the breezy, uptempo number of the same name about ignoring the haters.
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
The song won Swift nominations for record of the year, song of the year and best pop solo performance at the 2015 Grammy Awards.
“If you listen to her music, it’s all about how she is proud to dismiss dissenting views,” Parham said. “She’d rather celebrate her mistakes. The idea is she’s going to do what she wants to do, regardless. I argue that leads to malleable ethics.”
Whether you agree with that assessment or not, it’s hard to dismiss the role social media has played and is playing in driving a wedge between us. It’s the fuel igniting much of the anger out there.
Behind the anonymity of a computer screen, too many of us feel empowered to say anything we want with no inhibitions.
The Rev. Lyn Pace, chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University, believes more thought needs to be given to how we relate to one another, the effects of too much screen time on all of us, and the impact of too few real relationships in which we are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually present with one another in the flesh.
“Something is deteriorating here, and I’m afraid it’s truly the underlying factor in what’s happening with school shootings and perhaps the other ways that we destroy each other with violence, prejudice, greed and hate,” Pace said.
Like Parham, he believes the deterioration of community and the rise of an angry society is a serious matter, and is further exacerbated by several factors, including the United States’ original sin of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation, the decline in civic groups and associations, and the rise of both a diverse citizenry and technology.
“We can’t simply shake this off,” Pace said. “It’s incumbent on each of us to be courageous and intentional with our relationships. A shift must happen individually, but it will be even more important for already existing communities of faith, civic clubs and associations, schools and more to reach beyond themselves to be in relationship, especially with those who are different from them.”
If you tend to take your cues from political leaders, forget about it. It is up to each of us, he said, to model the peace that, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, cannot be kept by force but only achieved by understanding.
Parham said he started to notice how angry we all seemed when “Shake It Off” started its climb on the charts.
“It had 2.7 billion views and I recognized there are 7 billion people on the planet,” he remembered recently. “Something in the song resonated with people.”
To be fair, it isn’t just Swift. Rapper Gucci Mane’s “Haterade” and the television series “Supergirl,” in Parham’s opinion, also perpetuate the “hater mindset,” preferring to dismiss any views that are contrary to their own. That way of thinking seems to be taking hold of the country, creating virtual echo chambers that confirm our biases rather than challenge them.
Indeed by its definition alone, he says that all of us have become haters often without even realizing it.
It used to be a “hater” was considered anyone trying to hold another person back or stop them from succeeding. Today, a “hater” is anyone who disagrees or dissents from your opinion.
But simply having an opposing view is not the issue. The issue is when we view people with opposite views as the enemy.
“You are no longer just a Republican, you’re a bigot,” Parham said. “No longer just a Democrat, you’re a fairy. All of a sudden now, you are not like us, and because you’re not like us, I don’t have to treat you with civility and respect.
“We see this all across the country. In politics, in particular, people are so used to dismissing alternative perspectives that they often dismiss the people attached to those perspectives as well.”
Parham pointed to a college student who recently deleted friends who were Golden State Warrior fans.
“If they are Golden State fans, I don’t need them as friends,” the student posted on his Facebook page. “I have a thousand other friends.”
In another instance, he recalled, a colleague announced he wouldn’t be going home for the holidays because his mom voted for a different candidate.
“That’s what dissent is turning into,” Parham said. “It’s breaking relationships apart. Rather than handle the tensions, we’re deleting people from our lives. That’s a dangerous place to be.”
Are you guilty? Ask yourself these questions:
Do I automatically stop listening to perspectives I don’t like?
Do I expose myself only to views I already agree with?
Have I destroyed a relationship over a dissenting perspective?
If you answer yes to these questions, Parham said, it might be time for some introspection.