The politics of social media are as complex and infuriating as the ingredients list on the back of your local influencer’s detox tea.
One of the most self-damaging yet oddly satisfying social media phenomenons is ‘hate-following’: that is, continuing to follow someone on social media that you don’t like or that believe in things you disagree with. While it can be entertaining or simply make you feel better about yourself – and we’re all probably guilty of it to some degree (just look at how many Aussie millennials follow Clive Palmer on Facebook) – it can also take a toll on your brain box.
ABC Life spoke to academics at the University of Melbourne and Federation University about ‘hate-following’, who agreed that whilst it can provide a short-term endorphin rush and give you a soothing sense of catharsis, ultimately hate-following is bad for you in the long run.
“It might make our blood boil when we look at their posts, but we keep going back for more… you can start to feel worse about yourself. You might be scrolling, getting that anger rush, but then all of a sudden hours have gone by and you hate yourself more for that,” Dr Peggy Kern explains.
Like other addictions, it can cause a vicious cycle. Addictions can make you depressed, and when you’re depressed you’re more likely to engage in addictive behaviours, causing you to spiral, as ReachOut relates. Of course, let’s not conflate addictive behaviours with substance abuse – but it’s a similar sort of process.
Everyday I wake up and feel like twitter needs a button to differentiate between peeps you love and respect and peeps you #HateFollow
— Mark Isom (@markandrewisom) February 14, 2017
Sometimes hate-following is a necessity. Everyone’s got a relative with questionable political beliefs that you nevertheless keep on social media in the interests of keeping the peace around the dinner table. It might also be a professional requirement: maybe it’s your boss or coworkers, or maybe it’s about staying informed for work.
“We may be curious about what makes [things] popular with others, because understanding what motivates those around us helps us survive in a social world,” Dr Pamela Rutledge from Fielding Graduate University told Women’s Health.
Our take? Social media, like anything else, is a tool. It can help you stay connected with people, and is an essential part of the modern business landscape. While getting stressed on social media comes with the territory (to an extent), you’re better off doing your best to curate a social media experience that won’t elevate your blood pressure. Life’s too short to get mad online.