I Stopped Hate-Reading Internet Articles and You Should, Too

It can be hard to step away from the melee, but bickering in the comments of anything is a waste of time.

The clock hasn't moved since one. I should be working, but instead I'm actively wasting my time, clicking between Facebook, an article on winter beekeeping, and my Kayak basket with dozens of fantasy tickets totaling $18,000 (I feel like that's somehow a good value though?). After about 20 minutes, the Productivity Guilt will seep in and I'll snap out of it, closing some 14 tabs without a second thought.

I love wasting time. I love it so much I plan it out. I stopped hate-reading, and now I actually enjoy spare time in a way that enriches the rest of my life. Fancy that.

In my last semester of college, I became somewhat addicted to reading the comments. Knee-deep in actual work, I was clicking on shit I didn't even care about: blogs, magazines, cooking sites. I reveled in poorly executed DIYs, shitty mommy bloggers, absurdly liberal or conservative sites — just sipping my morning coffee and gravely shaking my damn head. People are so fucking stupid.

If you don't know what I mean, try reading the comments on your local paper's website — bonus points if you live in a small town. Populated by simple, often well-meaning, yet astonishingly racist people, it's bound to be a hearty stew of salty fucks who have the same arguments almost daily. Even the most neutral topics rouse the ire of every frustrated denizen. The comments are guaranteed to have a long-winded anti-vaxxer duking it out with a 21-year-old Constitutionalist, whose sole news source is South Park. It can be hard to step away from the melee, but bickering in the comments of anything is a waste of time, full stop.

With so many people putting themselves online, the line between people and their critics is blurred. We can monitor an ex-coworker's bad decisions just as easily as a pop star's. But deciding someone is stupid/basic/trying too hard/has no style/should be killed with fire isn't just woefully immature and judgmental, it's an obnoxious declaration of perceived superiority. It's a crappy, indulgent habit that you should probably stop before it makes you an insufferable twit.

Hate-reading is usually rooted in one or two issues: envy or a superiority complex. Good old-fashioned envy isn't just desiring others' achievements and possessions, but also getting riled that people have things that you feel you deserve more. It's stewing on people and situations different than your own. Are you jealous that a blogger gets to work from home, or gets free shit? Not everyone has the same circumstances, or makes the same choices as you; this shouldn't be news.

Ironically, a superiority complex is actually the main symptom of an inferiority complex. Finding a person that you can easily dismiss as being wrong about everything delivers a juicy boost to your ego. Maybe for reasons unknown to anyone, you're trying to convince online strangers that another online stranger is lying about having cancer. Maybe you troll baking blogs to take smug lifestyle bloggers down a peg: "⅕ stars — I made this recipe subbing beef gravy for sugar, and it was fucking horrible, and I hope you die alone."

This kind of behaviour is destructive, not just to you, because your self-esteem is strangely dependent on how poorly other people are doing, but to people that put themselves online — especially people that may not be experienced in online culture. "Well, if you are too sensitive, maybe don't put it on the internet," is a crazy statement — the internet is very much the real world now, so throwing shit at anyone or anything you don't like isn't normal behaviour; maybe we can stop acting like it's to be expected. Having an online presence is absolutely necessary in some careers, and social media is almost compulsory.

What if, instead of everyone just unleashing the absolute monster within every time they go online, we instead display just a shred of decency to each other?

Do you think media sites post slightly inaccurate, overly dramatic headlines simply because they never finished their journalism degree? By stretching facts, media sites are able to manufacture outrage to incite a dramatic response in readers, who then go on to share, comment and rack up all the delicious clicks. Problem is, it 100% works, and some of the smartest people I know fall for it.

The staggering investment of hate-reading is basically the same reason I finished college: The Sunk Cost Fallacy. This is the idea that, since you've already invested so much time in to something marginal, it would all be in vain if you just gave it up. If you quit, you might have to admit what a waste of time it was stalking the social media of frenemeies, so instead you might rationalize it in some way, which is how you could accidentally become an awful person. Before you know it, people will start to avoid you to spare themselves your "clever" rants about things they aren't remotely interested in. Someone on the internet is unpacking The Bride of Chucky? You don't say!

Checking on sites to hate-read is slightly addictive — just type in the first two letters of the address, and the computer takes over, making it really easy to cruise on over to "just to check" a page for the 20th time that day.

Delete it from your history and cache, take it out of favorites or off your home screen. Delete your username, delete your commenting handle. Remove triggers on social media, unfollow and unfriend people you can't stand. It'll actually feel good to break off the weird, one-sided relationships — it's not them, it's you. If you lack the self-control to stay away from sites you can't even with, install a handy app like StayFocused; it'll force you into being the person you promise to be every night before you fall asleep by blocking and restricting the sites you specify.

Instead of looking at things that you expect to piss you off or disappoint you, try something you legitimately enjoy: art or design sites, comedy channels, your favorite band's Instagram, a recipe site. Have it pop up as your home screen, or put it in your favorites so you can get to it easily when you want to waste some time.

If you want to double-down on smug, self-congratulatory life choices, install Duolingo on your phone so you can complete a lesson or two instead of mocking strangers. You don't have to become some mindful human that raves about avocado and toast, but try focusing your energy on things that relax you, expand your thinking or make you laugh — instead of seethe.

Holding different beliefs than someone doesn't automatically make them a wrong about everything ever. Hate-reading grooms you for a narcissistic sense of superiority, and it also makes you negative about life in general. Being negative is easy, and it's a lazy response to being unhappy.

Stop it.