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Paradoxically, Show Views Double When We Feel *This* Emotion (Analyzing 431 Series)

hate-watching shows case study kal-visuals

It sometimes feels like the world is divided into two types of people.

Type One

Type 1 people hear about a new show, Emily in Paris. “A young American woman from the Midwest is hired by a marketing firm in Paris to provide them with an American perspective on things.” Sounds good. They start watching it.

Some of them like the show, some don’t.

Hopefully, by now you know I wasn’t going to judge people by an experience as subjective as liking or disliking a show. Shall we?

Type Two

Type 2 people hear about a new show, Emily in Paris. “A young American woman from the Midwest is hired by a marketing firm in Paris to provide them with an American perspective on things.”

They watch the show ironically. They go through a hundred Tweets on it and Tweet a hundred more.

One of my favorite copywriters, Laura Belgray, (may sound familiar because of this) wrote about it: Why Emily in Paris is 2020’s Ultimate Hate Watch.

MSN published an article titled People Hate ‘Emily in Paris’ So Much It’s a Global Crisis.

Type 2 people enjoy things, but not before rationalizing or overanalyzing them to death.

This an over-simplistic view and it’s fine. Some people are better off single and some things are better off simple.

Why do we hate-watch? 

If we analyzed 5,709 episodes of 431 series (comedy, reality, and drama genres), what would we find?

As it turns out, this question has been answered. For dramas and reality shows, various expressions of “hate” by viewers were the strongest emotional indicator that TV show viewership will increase for the following episode, according to a study by data-analytics startup Canvs.

Let me say that again.

Hate is the strongest emotional indicator that we will watch another episode, and the next, and the next. 

It doesn’t stop there. The data startup asked people to categorize shows into love, hate, boring, annoying, etc.

For every 0.1% increase in “hate” answers, viewership increased. Views almost doubled for “hate” answers in comparison to “love.”

I guess love isn’t the answer

So, this is why we watch Keeping up with the Kardashians, Emily in Paris, Përputhen (a dating show in Albania), and similar shows that make us cringe! 

Hate-based activities besides hate-watching

Hate-doing extends to other activities. People hate-read articles and hate-follow others on social media.

I wrote a bit about hate-reading in Read This if You Hate My Articles.

There’s something that needs to be said about our emotional bandwidth and how much we struggle to name our feelings beyond love, hate, anger, boredom.

We should reserve the word hate for people who hurt others, for what fills us with unimaginable rage, for cruel injustices that leave us feeling weak and powerless, like this one Migjeni, a famous Albanian poet, encapsulated:

Migjeni albanian writer and poet the emotion of hate and helplessness Migjeni, Highlander’s Exclamation (translated by Oltion Zoto)

“Oh, for I don’t have a crushing fist
to hit the core of the hushing mountain,
so he too may know the meaning of weakness.”

Migjeni, Highlander’s Exclamation (translated by Oltion Zoto)

Should you stop hate-watching shows?

According to Wikipedia (and as Rory Sutherland wrote in the book I’m currently reading: “I know it is professional suicide to acknowledge Wikipedia”), Emily Nussbaum was the first person to come up with the term hate-watching in this 2012 The New Yorker article.

Apparently, so many of us interact with shows or influential figures in this way that we had to find a name for it.

As I was writing this article, I went on Twitter. This tweet by TV writer and actress Dani Fernandez showed up on my feed.

That’s something to keep in mind- what we focus on, expands. What we pay attention to gets rewarded. We decide which shows get new seasons. It doesn’t matter if our support is hate or love-based.

In the grand scheme of things, spending a few minutes scrolling through the page of someone you hate-follow on Instagram, huffing and puffing at their cringey posts, isn’t the worst thing you can do for yourself or the world.

Do I hate-scroll through Kim K’s Instagram? Of course I do.

Craig Wright, a professor emeritus who annually teaches the genius course at Yale, pondered on Kim’s ‘business genius’ title. For real. Influencers and screenwriters are marketing geniuses. They know how to keep us hooked.

hate-watching KUWTK kim in the ocean earring From Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Ironically, you can tell yourself "There's people that are dying." to "justify"  hate-watching this show with questionable morals and storytelling. And that's OKAY!
From Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Ironically, you can tell yourself “There’s people that are dying.” to “justify” hate-watching this show with questionable morals and storytelling. And that’s OKAY!

Hate-binging shows that suck doesn’t mean you have self-sabotaging tendencies, questionable tastes, or time management issues. It means you’re acting predictably irrationally, completely humanely.

In case you *would* like to stop hate-watching shows

Are you really, really, really sure? Maybe you haven’t found the right show that’s so incredibly bad it’s kinda good? JK.

I’ll borrow from what my past self said in Secret Theory as to Why Some Albanians Hate Other Albanians So Much:

Practice mindfulness– Getting intimate with our brains is scary. Mindfulness can help you with so many aspects of your daily life, especially with strong emotions like hate or disgust. Being mindful of the way you speak about your experiences = more mindful experiences = better experiences

I’d also recommend:

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

UPDATE March 22, 2021: MIT Technology Review journalist Karen Hao did a deep dive on Facebook, in her piece How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation. She found that:

“Meanwhile, the algorithms that recommend this content still work to maximize engagement. This means every toxic post that escapes the content-moderation filters will continue to be pushed higher up the news feed and promoted to reach a larger audience.

Indeed, a study from New York University recently found that among partisan publishers’ Facebook pages, those that regularly posted political misinformation received the most engagement in the lead-up to the 2020 US presidential election and the Capitol riots. “That just kind of got me,” says a former employee who worked on integrity issues from 2018 to 2019. “We fully acknowledged [this], and yet we’re still increasing engagement.”

Now I’d like to hear from you! Do you hate-watch shows or hate-follow people? Are you working on it or is it your not-so-guilty pleasure you don’t mind at all?

4 thoughts on “Paradoxically, Show Views Double When We Feel *This* Emotion (Analyzing 431 Series)”

  1. Maybe having gone through a pandemic and the teachings of people like yourself there could be the arising of a Type 3 people. Learning to be more mindful and intelligent in everyday life situations. Less ego motivated. More thoughtful and curious. Challenging what sometimes is called “human nature”? 🙂

  2. I do hate-watch shows(usually they are shows during which I don’t get thoughts that require a lot of energy to process:p), but I try to balance the hate-watch with other shows or activities worthy to me, after which I feel somehow accomplished.
    Most of the times, after hate-watching, I feel as if I wasted my time, which might make it a bit harmful as a process. But other times they are necessary in case you just wanna chill.

    Also, I have tried meditating, but I have been unable to keep it ON. Would you suggest me any articles or videos, or whatever you think it works in order to help me start?

    1. Keeping a healthy balance of the content types we consume is so important. In the movie Morning Glory (it’s about a struggling morning show), the main characters played by Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford have a heated discussion about what the show should or shouldn’t include. As they walk through the breakfast buffet at the studio, the cheesy producer rightfully asks stoic Ford whether he’d like people to only consume fiber, fiber, fiber, instead of a balance of bran and cereal.

      It seems like you’ve hit the spot. If spending X amount of time watching something makes you feel like you wasted your time afterward, you can try cutting that time in 1/2 or commit to a max number of episodes you’re willing to watch.

      As for meditation, YAY! So happy to hear that. This article about Routine Optimization (make sure to check out the app and the Mark Manson article it includes) might be helpful.

      With any routine, what it comes down to is choosing the path of least resistance, especially in the beginning. Here‘s what I mean.

      Thank you for sharing.

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