Yesterday morning, I hit up Starbucks with my coworker. Coffee runs are a daily morning ritual for us. But her visibly distressed demeanor was not.
I asked her what was up, and she told me she was in a weird mood because some of her more recent work was being bashed and torn apart. A fellow writer, she takes her most personal thoughts and makes them public, posting articles on the Internet for the world to see.
In an article of hers that highlighted one of her biggest physical insecurities, the commenters didn’t care about the courage it took for her to open up about an experience she’d have had an easier time keeping to herself. Instead, they belittled her for even having said physical insecurity at all.
She expressed her contempt for the Debbie Downers, but she also expressed how upset she was. She was clearly affected by the things these people had to say.
“I try not to let what they say get to me,” she said, “but at the end of the day, if someone calls me a piece of sh*t, I’m truly going to believe I’m a piece of sh*t, regardless of my own opinion of myself.”
And just like that, my mood shifted from impossibly hopeful to unmistakably sour. I was livid.
I empathized with my friend a great deal. I’ve been on the unfortunate end of online bullying as well, and it feels anything but good.
Anyone who’s ever been hated on can relate. You spend hours toiling over something you’ve worked hard on -- whether it’s the outfit you chose to wear, a piece of art you created or, like in my coworker’s case, for just being you -- only to get shut down for expressing yourself.
My coworker’s melancholy got me thinking. Why are some people so mean to other people -- and for no good reason?
We all do it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do it, too. We get one quick look at a person walking down the street or read one article that chronicles just one experience out of the millions a writer has throughout his or her lifetime, and we draw incorrect or ill-informed assumptions about the person as a whole.
Making these kinds of generalizations is inherently dangerous, since we never know what someone is really going through. But what’s worse than that is the fact that we hate on people for going through something at all.
I mean, haven't we all gone through sh*t? Isn't going through sh*t just a part of being a human being?
It's frustrating that people think they can attach a hierarchy to suffering. My coworker's struggle means a lot to her, even if other people didn't view it as a tragedy in the way she does. Nobody's problems deserve to be trivialized by other people who simply don't understand.
I took a look into why haters hate (because seriously, can’t we all just get along?), and there's actually one simple answer.
Because they’re born mean.
Just like we can’t choose the family we’re born into, we also can’t choose what kind of worldly perspective we’re born with.
There’s something called “positive dispositional attitude” and something else called “negative dispositional attitude.” The former describes having a more cheery outlook toward the unknown, while the latter looks down on the unknown in fear or general negativity.
In a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2,000 participants were asked to rate 16 items on a scale of one to seven (with one being “extremely unfavorable” and seven being “extremely favorable”).
The results weren't clear-cut -- they showed that some pessimistic people still liked certain items, while some optimistic people disliked certain items -- but they also showed that positive and negative dispositional attitudes develop in accordance with both environmental and biological factors.
Certain individuals have a strong tendency to like things while other individuals have a strong tendency to dislike things. Our personalities and the way we react to things directly correlate with how predisposed we are to positivity and negativity.
Justin Hepler and Dolores Albarracín, authors of the study, concluded the following:
This surprising and novel discovery expands attitude theory by demonstrating that an attitude is not simply a function of an object’s properties, but it is also a function of the properties of the individual who evaluates the object.
In other words, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. You choose whether or not you want to see something as beautiful and good or ugly and damaged, just like you choose whether you want to shame people for their struggles or commend them for being brave enough to speak up.
Don’t fret, though. You don't have to be bound to a bottle of haterade.
Do you spend your days garnering negative feelings toward everyone you meet and your nights trolling and commenting mean things on personal articles and public forums? Science says you don’t have to stay that way.
The key is to surround yourself with enough positive-minded people to sway your own way of thinking and develop an awareness of your perceptions. Then, do your best to improve them from an objective viewpoint.
In other words, you can easily replace going to see a movie with bad assumptions with going to see it with positive assumptions.
And it's also possible to click on an article with good intentions, rather than with bad things to say.
If you’re about to hate on this article, now you know exactly why you went out of your way to do so. In the wise words of T-Swizzle, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate,” so if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by haters, just throw on your sunglasses and stay blind to those haters.