If I dislike you and can find your social media accounts, I can declare my dislike, using my real name or not.

With just a few clicks, I can lacerate your looks, work, intellect, or politics. I can call you a lazy fascist slug. I might be wrong, of course, but I can call anyone anything at any moment.

So can you.

In a historical sense, this is new. Our ancestors lacked the technology by which to proclaim instantly and effortlessly, for an audience of millions, "I just can't stand this guy."

Public display of hatred—let's call it PDH—defines our times and has changed the way we interact. The very fact that PDH exists has transformed daily life into a battle zone. Hate is a hobby, a career, a mission, and a sport. It's even creepier in that, for all its power to destroy, PDH manifests not face-to-face but at a distance, in virtual space.

Hate itself is not new, as ancient warriors would tell us. But until this century, chastened by fear and faith and believing that envy, pride, and wrath were deadly sins, our forebears mainly cloaked their interpersonal dislikes in cordiality, avoidance, and restraint.

They would be shocked to see how freely we fling harm.

They would be stunned to learn that, in the 14 years since the "dislike button" was launched, we can achieve this with one click. Would they call us barbarians? Or would they envy us?

Times have changed.

For most of history, PDH required not just will but muscle, force, and risk. Imagine how hard it would be to organize or even just participate in swarming over hillsides bearing pitchforks, painting "Lord Ethelric is stupid" across a castle wall, or summoning half the town to burn a barn or pummel vagabonds with rotten fruit.

Would our ancestors declare social media, Rate My Professor, Yelp, or FaceScore space-age or primeval? Would they deem such forums pinnacles of honesty or pits of hell?

And as shocked as our ancestors would be to see us effortlessly shred each other, Generations Z and A would likely be as shocked to learn that prior generations could not and did not.

Gens Z and A grew up with PDH. It shapes and even causes some to end their lives. It fuels a mental health crisis now derailing the young. Yet social media, where PDH prevails, is on the rise.

Is this because the thrill of wielding and the capability of causing harm outweighs the fear of being harmed? Is the power to inflict pain compulsive?

Cruelty is cool.

We have reached a point at which we love to loathe.

We love it better when we loathe together. As a social species, we want millions to like our dislikes. We want our PDH to make us famous, because cruelty is currency these days, and cruelty is cool.

Is PDH a privilege? Is it pathological or normal? Is it progress or a signpost of societal decline? Should hatred be performative, replacing theatre, comedy, and oratory? Should it be such fun?

"Love languages" is self-help-speak for ways in which we express and absorb affection. More defining of our era are "hate languages"—the memes, insults, symbols, and slang shaping our PDH.

So when we type "#ban_so-and-so" or "STFU," are we valiant villain-smashers, righting wrongs? Or are we vipers, skulking in the luxury of anonymity while firing the cheapest possible shots?

Or are we simply figures in a sci-fi film in which a futuristic and provenly lethal weapon lurks in every pocket, spews from every screen, rewires our brains, and taints our air?

The prevalence of PDH has changed our sense of being in the world. We feel constantly judged and watched as if through gunsights, subject to discussion, accusation, defamation, mockery, or bigotry.

PDH is the opposite of empathy. Is its increasing dominance erasing kindness and making us meaner specieswide? We can be vectors or targets, loathers or loathed. This is a harsh arithmetic.

And how could we be anything but always anxious, living amidst constant crossfire, bracing for attack and counterstrike, training ourselves to become merciless or numb?

QOSHE - Do We Inhabit an Age of Hate? - S. Rufus
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Do We Inhabit an Age of Hate?

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14.06.2024

If I dislike you and can find your social media accounts, I can declare my dislike, using my real name or not.

With just a few clicks, I can lacerate your looks, work, intellect, or politics. I can call you a lazy fascist slug. I might be wrong, of course, but I can call anyone anything at any moment.

So can you.

In a historical sense, this is new. Our ancestors lacked the technology by which to proclaim instantly and effortlessly, for an audience of millions, "I just can't stand this guy."

Public display of hatred—let's call it PDH—defines our times and has changed the way we interact. The very fact that PDH exists has transformed daily life into a battle zone. Hate is a hobby, a career, a mission, and a sport. It's even creepier in that, for all its power to destroy, PDH manifests not face-to-face but at a distance, in virtual space.

Hate itself is not new, as ancient warriors would tell us. But until this century, chastened by fear and faith and believing that........

© Psychology Today


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