The Psychology of Haters

In 1997, Will Smith introduced a new word into the American lexicon: “hater.” In his hit, Gettin’ Jiggy wit It, he rapped that he had “no love for the haters,” because they were, implicitly, motivated by envy. In 2001, the R&B group 3LW, in their song Playas Gon’ Play, provided more context for understanding haters by telling us “playas gon’ play [and] haters gon’ hate.” In his 2010 book, Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People, Michael Strangelove describes haters as people or groups of people who express hatred in public forums — e.g., YouTube and Facebook. The Oxford Dictionary tells us that a hater is “[a] person who greatly dislikes a specified person or thing,” or “[a] negative or critical person.” Importantly, the Urban Dictionary adds: “A person that simply cannot be happy for another person’s success. So rather than be happy, they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person.” It goes on: “Hating, the result of being a hater, is not exactly jealousy. The hater doesn’t really want to be the person he or she hates, rather the hater wants to knock someone else down a notch.”

While I think the Urban Dictionary‘s definition is helpful, I also think that it misses an important point. Hating, arguably, may spring forth from many different places. It could be jealousy or it could be group bias. For example, one of the best examples of haters are the Birthers and the Tea Party when it comes to President Obama. Dr. Matthew Hughey and I wrote in our book, The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama, and in it describe how these two entities and their members have been —> Read More