In defense of “haters” like TikTok’s Talia Lichtstein

On the Internet, you can be anything. But of all the things he can be (except criminal and morally repugnant), one is generally agreed that among the worst is a hater.

Haters are a really convenient scapegoat. No matter what you do, whether it’s spoofing cryptocurrency or producing content meant to keep kids’ eyes glued to their iPads, you can label anyone who dares hate you as a “hater,” someone who has no better relationship with their time then sitting around hating you. for you.

Many would argue that “haters” don’t produce anything of value, they only exist to pass judgment on those who have the courage and skill to make something themselves. This is a particularly useful rhetorical device for those in the public eye: reality TV stars, celebrities, billionaires, and Taylor Swift, to name a few, but it’s often used by regular people who stand up for the things they love. Remember, if you will, the many times the internet debated whether it was okay to criticize popular culture at all, or whether we should all just shut up and “Let people enjoy things. “

(Before we go any further, note: by “hater” I mean an outspoken critic of a particular media property or celebrity, not someone who hates entire groups of people or engages in personal attacks or bullying. There is, however, no hard line in defining what Whether a statement is a personal attack or a reasonable criticism – and being on the receiving end of the criticism is often very personal, no matter how measured the criticism is. This makes distinguishing between them more difficult, and the need for more nuance is important.)

Another rhetorical device beloved by influencers who despise “haters,” is the concept of “spreading positivity.” It works like this: Society has long bristled at the idea that there is a class of workers who make money simply by posting online, and that the influencer’s job is often to make sure everyone is jealous of them. In response to this line of criticism—that they are materialists or flaunt their wealth, that they are corrupt, that they contribute to a culture that prioritizes aesthetics over substance—the influencer will say that all they’re trying to do in the first place was “spread positivity.” Example: After Jake Paul, a YouTuber who was accused of promoting scams with his fans several times, came up against misogynistic influencer Andrew TateSocial media ban last August, Paul claimed that He had nothing but positive to post.

It’s a term that’s been used to justify many different types of inexcusable behavior that “spreading positivity” is basically meaningless on the Internet. That’s why Talia Lichtenstein TikTok, her bio proudly says “Spread Negativity ❤️”. The 24-year-old New York resident isn’t joking: Her content mostly consists of her talking to her camera, talking about things she hates. “People who, instead of clapping their hands, clap by hitting a part of their body.” for example. Also: the red and white Converse sneakers, which are very much the “sending love” tradition Everyone is at the airport.

But for Liechtenstein, the point is not mean. There’s a lot of pressure on women online to be hopeful, likable, and harmless, she argues, “We need to correct a little bit. The solution isn’t to have everyone walk around yelling, ‘I’m allowed to be a hater!’ But there has to be a couple.”

The internet agreed: Over the past year and a half, Lichtstein has built a TikTok following of more than a million, got her own platform on Snapchat, and is able to support herself as a full-time content creator. “I mistakenly marketed myself in a very clever way, because I didn’t realize there was a thirst for female voices in particular that were fiercely honest or that tell it like it is.”

It should be noted that Lichtenstein is quite a likable person, and his “spread negativity” schtick does not apply to any kind of judgment based on identity or appearance. “Deliciously caustic” might be a better way to put it. Their content is part of a larger wave of people online embracing the “hate,” “toxic,” or hateful internet label. “How do I sleep the day after I’m a proud hater and start arguing and spreading negativity,” Viral TikTok reads For someone who looks particularly warm. “Hating on people is so much fun, I’m a daddy hater, I wake up every day ready to spread negativity and hopefully ruin lives,” says another With nearly 200,000 likes. On the Internet, you’ll find usernames and podcasts with names like “Spread Negativity, Be Toxic” and people happily ramble around with phrases like “gaslight, portal, girlboss! ”

It’s obviously a joke, but it’s also counter to the idea that disparate beliefs are inherently toxic. Gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss [is] A meme now used to denote hollow capitalism or organizations like the CIA talk about social justice,” writes my colleague Alexabad Santos in explaining the phrase. “Spreading negativity” seems like a way to recognize the wit of those who claim to “spread positivity” no matter what. the harm caused by their actions.

These kinds of “pro-negativity” behaviors, whether sarcastic or not, have been studied by scientists for decades, most notably by University of Wisconsin communications professor Jonathan Gray, Who in 2003 They argued for the inclusion of “anti-fans” in audience studies, or people who dislike certain texts. Many scholars have suggested that anti-fans subvert the traditional pattern of media consumption, in which we are supposed to accept and love the thing we watch. Ann Gilbert writes in the anthology: “As active, engaged viewers, we’re not meant to hate, and we aim to treat hate with suspicion in others because like has been touted as a progressive effort to champion the underdog in popular media.” Anti-Fan: Hate and Hate in the Digital Age.

Social media, where likes and dislikes can be measured, only widens the chasm between fans and opponents. In character-limited forums and comment sections, where strong, unambiguous responses are voted on and prioritized by algorithms, the distinctions between the two extremes are often lost. This is partly why people whose jobs require them to be in the public eye (influencers, for example) exist. You often suffer from a worldview Where there are only two types of people: followers and haters. It’s an understandable frame of mind when a lot of the attention they see is either from ardent fans or death threats.

Ironically, despite her TikTok bio, Lichtstein makes an effort not to fall into this trap. “It’s not just about having negative things to say, but having them multiple Things you say,” she explains. “Nothing is black and white, there is a gray area. When people criticize me, I think, “Is that a valid criticism, or are they just calling me fat and ugly and stupid?” If they’re saying, “I really like what Talia has to say about feminism or whatever, but sometimes I just can’t handle the yelling, it makes me want to mix it up and maybe be a little more soft-spoken.” , because then it might reach more people.”

I ask what do you hate the most at the moment. Her first answer is indicative of her recent diatribes, against harmful influencers like Andrew Tate and reactionary politics. “I hate the misogynistic culture on the internet,” she says. “I feel like a lot of people, because of social media, are falling for these hate campaigns against people like Amber Heard and Meghan Markle.”

There is something else bothering her, too. “I hate the rain,” she adds. “I hate people who are like, ‘Oh, but we are need He. She!’ But it’s not fun and it doesn’t work for me. It’s really disgusting.”

This column was first published in the Merchandise Newsletter. Register here In order not to miss the next message, in addition to receiving our exclusive newsletter.

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