It sometimes feels like the world is divided into two types of people.
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 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.
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.”
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:
“Oh, for I don’t have a crushing fistMigjeni, Highlander’s Exclamation (translated by Oltion Zoto)
to hit the core of the hushing mountain,
so he too may know the meaning of weakness.”
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.
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.”
“More important, I realized, if it [referring to the Responsible AI team at FB] tried to, it would be set up for failure.
The reason is simple. Everything the company does and chooses not to do flows from a single motivation: Zuckerberg’s relentless desire for growth. Quiñonero’s AI expertise supercharged that growth. His team got pigeonholed into targeting AI bias, as I learned in my reporting, because preventing such bias helps the company avoid proposed regulation that might, if passed, hamper that growth.”
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?