Thursday, March 29, 2018

Soul Sustenance: Haters

Hate and hater. It seems that those words are thrown about all the time. We have hate speech, hate over politics, hate over sexual orientation and race. But now hate is being redefined to mean that if anyone disagrees with you on any issue that they are a hater and hate you. Social media is in fueling this. People who never considered themselves to be haters are now becoming haters. How serious is this? What affect is it having on society? What does it mean to be a hater? 
I had a chance to interview Dr. Wes Parham, author of the new book, Be A Hater. Dr. Parham describes what being a hater is in today’s world and identifies some people who nobody would ever consider being a hater as haters such as Taylor Swift. He says that everyone is becoming a hater often without realizing it. 

What are the different ways the term "hater" is used?
 In contemporary culture there are usually two ways that "hater" is used. The first is as a way to describe someone who is pessimistic, antagonistic, contrarian, or acts maliciously. This is the usage that most people would "say" they mean when they use the term "hater". They would say a "hater" is someone who tries to stop another person from succeeding, or who tries to bring another person down. However, even though most people would "say" that is what they mean by a "hater" their usage of the word is usually more closely aligned with the second way that "hater" is used in our culture.  And that usage is as a synonym for dissent or disagreement. In most usages of the word "hater" there is not antagonism, maliciousness, etc. There is just dissent or disagreement. I once overheard this conversation: 
Person 1: I love all white tennis shoes, I own like 4 pair 
Person 2: I don't really like white shoes they get dirty to easy.
Person 1: Why are you such a hater? You always hating.

In this scenario there was no antagonism, maliciousness, etc. just simply one person expressing dissent or disagreement from another. But this disagreement/dissent led to them being called a "hater". This is the second usage of the word "hater" in our culture. People use it as a description for people who dissent or disagree with them. The problem is that in most cases even though this is the more popular usage, most people don't even recognize this is how they are using the term. It is happening at a subconscious level.   

Is the term overused? Why could that potentially be a bad thing?
I definitely think the term is overused. It has become embedded into the popular vernacular/language of the culture and is used casually and often times, several times, in conversation. The reason this is a bad thing is essentially what my book "Be A Hater: A Polemic on the Hater Mindset" is about. It talks about how the usage of the term "hater" is problematic because of the way that language shapes our thoughts, ideas, values, and behavior. Linguist have long known that the words we use shape how we think, and often times this happens at the subconscious level. This is why one of the first thing any organization or group does is teach or expose new members to the shared language of the group. They recognize that the language a person uses shapes their thinking, values, and behavior. In the case of the usage of "hater" I argue that ingrained into the term is the idea that dissent should be dismissed or disdained. This is why people call others "a hater", it is so that they can dismiss or disdain the person's differing perspective. I argue this approach to dissent negatively impacts our cultures critical thinking, innovative behavior, learning, ethics, and value of relationships. And because language shaping is usually subconscious, the term "hater" is shaping our view and behavior in these areas without us even recognizing.

What effects does it have on society that the "hater" label is so casually tossed around?
I think the fact that "hater" is tossed around so casually causes many people to subconsciously believe that dismissing or disdaining dissent is the preferred way to deal with it. If in the majority of situations that dissent occurs, a person calls the other person a "hater" and dismisses their perspective they will begin to make this a habit or their preferred way of handling dissent. This in turn will cause them to not be exposed to, not be able to evaluate , or not be able to handle dissenting views or perspectives. This means they can't effectively critically think because as the scholar Steven Brookfield proposed critical thinking requires the evaluation of alternative perspectives against your own. This also means that they  won't ever question their own perspective, which limits their learning and makes them always believe they are right. And a person who is always right bases all of their ethical decisions on what they believe and won't ever consider that they may be acting unethically, These are just a few of the challenges with using "hater" causally without evaluating it's impact. 

How can people recognize if they are becoming a "hater" and turn that into more productive action?

My challenge is not for people to run away from being a "hater" but to redefine the term. If a "hater" is someone who offers alternative perspectives, whose dissent leads to others being more able to critically think and learn, who questions their own rightness, etc. than that is someone I think we should all desire to be. In the final chapter of the book I lay out what this type of "hater" may look like. I call them a "hater revised". The "hater revised" is someone who doesn't run from alternative perspectives, dissent, or disagreement they actively pursue it. They recognize that it helps them to grow cognitively and personally. The "hater revised" does not assume the wrongness of others and use this as an excuse to dismiss their perspective, they utilize introspection before projection. They consider that there may be ways to improve their own view before dismissing others. The "hater revised" does not dismiss or break relationships because of dissent, they understand that close relationships are characterized by dissent and disagreement and they are willing to handle the cognitive dissonance or tension that emerges in these relationships. They value the relationship more than they disdain the dissent that is a part of it. For me a person who practices these things is a "hater revised" and is on the right track.  

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