“Get dem haters out your circle. Smile in your face but all they wanna do is bring ya down. See them try them best to hurt you, and work you. Anything to bring you down.”
—Rihanna, “Dem Haters”
Wake Forest University law professor and psychologist Gregory S. Parks, a prolific writer, has penned a new book titled Haters. Parks typically writes about Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) so I was curious as to why he is now writing about haters. According to Parks, “I’m a product of the hip hop generation. For a long time, I’ve been listening to songs about people who have an irrationally high level of negative feelings towards others. As a psychologist, I’ve been fascinated by this mode of thinking, feeling, and behaving. As a human, I’ve been curious about it when on the receiving end. This confluence of factors inspired me to write this book.”
In Haters, Parks traces the development of hate as it relates to jealousy and envy, drawing from history, language, philosophy in addition to rap, celebrity culture, activism, public figures, organizations, and academia. Hate and haters are pervasive. Parks explores who haters are, what motivates them, and most importantly how to navigate them. He shares that haters do not live “benignly” with regard to the person they hate. They bully, they assassinate the character of those they envy, and they often play an active role in trying to do harm to the object of their hate, even asking others to participate in this harm. These groupies who enable greater hate are often referred to as “flying monkeys” — a term that comes from the classic film The Wizard of Oz, during which flying monkeys do the dirty work of the Wicked Witch of the West.
At their core, according to Parks, haters hate due to insecurities, low self-esteem, and deep envy. They see others doing better than them, compare themselves to others, and lash out in myriad forms, including via social media, whisper campaigns, mobbing (forming a group to bully), and even physical violence. Parks notes that social media exacerbates hate as people are constantly reminded of how they measure up to others even if what they see on social media is not a complete or accurate picture of the person they hate. Moreover, he explains that the “mask” that social media can provide — and the possible anonymity — “reinforces the emotional divide” between a person and a troll (on-line hater), making it easier for the troll to push out hate to their followers.
Parks has been thinking about haters for quite a long time. In his words, “I’ve opined about haters for some years…on blogs and podcasts. The book is the culmination of that analysis. I think people who’ve read or listened to my ideas on the topic have been trying to make sense of their own experiences navigating this dynamic.”
Within colleges and universities, hating — and its manifestation — bullying — is particularly pervasive. According to Leah Hollis, a faculty member at Morgan State University, and the author of Human Resource Perspectives on Workplace Bullying in Higher Education, “Workplace bullying is pervasive because of the highly competitive process of ascending to leadership in higher education. While I personally champion tenure — especially given its original goal to protect the intellectual life of professors — it also creates an environment where people are hyper-competitive to get tenure.”
How do you stop haters who bully? According to Parks, “Depending on how antagonistic and how impactful the behavior is: ignore, report, confront.” and Hollis added, “It takes a village [to stop haters from bullying]. Policies need to be in place stating that bullying is not accepted.” However, as Hollis explains, “A policy is not enough. [L]eaders need to model appropriate behavior and reward those with civil behaviors…. If we see that bullying is accepted …, then the rest of the organization learns that bullying and incivility are welcomed….” Hollis stressed that bullying is more than one person, it emerges from an environment that supports it.
For those who might be wondering what the difference is between criticism and hate, according to Parks, there will be those who criticize you and might even dislike you and not amount to a hater. He points out that sometimes critics are merely doing their job and that some people have legitimate reasons for disliking you.
Parks ends the book on a positive note, stating, “in the instances when you are confronted with a personal hater, I am reminded of a meme of Leonardo DiCaprio — a picture of him from the 2013 movie The Great Gatsby — where he offers a toast. The meme says, ‘Cheers to all my haters — Be patient. So much more is coming.’ In short, do you, and do not let others diminish your achievements or drive.”
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