Social networking sites allow users to express views with anonymity.
Social networking sites allow users to express views with anonymity.

Social networks easy way to hate

“OMG, wot’s she dun!”Sam Hutchinson despises Lindsay Lohan, but he spends hours following her on Twitter.

And he’s not alone.

Hate following is the newest phenomenon to come out of social networking sites.

It refers to people who spend time following those they dislike and disagree with on Facebook, Twitter or news sites just to reinforce their own, opposing opinions.

But University of the Sunshine Coast psychology senior lecturer Peter Gibbon said that hate following went beyond social networking sites.

“It’s an age-old phenomenon,” Dr Gibbon said. “It’s the love-hate thing where people are attracted to things they hate.

“People tune in just to think, ‘God they’re awful’. It has just adapted to social networking.”

Dr Gibbon said that in the past, people tuned into radio shock jocks or TV personalities and they could get feedback from ratings and the people around them.

“But on the internet, you have instant feedback,” he said.

Dr Gibbon said the anonymity of the internet removed the power relationships present in real life, whether it be in the workplace or simply because of physical size.

This allowed people to make more abusive remarks as “you’re not going to get physically biffed in real life” for making anonymous comments on the internet.

He said hate following came out of a basic human need to have emotions excited.

“Hate following is all about arousal,” he said. “It’s not intellectual.”

Dr Gibbon said the level of arousal that hate following generated could fortify opinions by inciting people against the opposite point of view.

“There is an optimum level of arousal that you can go past to an unhealthy level of fixation, to stalking,” he said.

“But that would only be in a very small percentage of people.”

ABC News Online producer Michael Collett, who moderates comments on the website as well updating ABC’s Facebook and Twitter pages, agrees people post more vicious comments on the website because of anonymity.

“There is very little accountability online, which encourages people to express extreme points of view that they mightn’t otherwise,” he said.

Stephanie McLeay is a journalism student at the USC.


Halfway through 2011, Twitter users were sending 200 million tweets per day.

In January, 2009, users sent two million tweets a day, and last year, 65 million a day.

A billion tweets are sent every five days.

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