Haters versus Critical Thinkers

On the evening of the Oscars, my friend, a journalist for The New York Times, updated her status on Facebook and stated, “Wow, my facebook steam is full of haters tonight. Sigh.” I had noticed the same thing. My friends were posting things like “Anne Hathaway seems like a twat” and “Adele is fat as shit” and I sat there reading and contemplating why I was friends with them.

A friend of hers then posed the question, “What’s the difference between being a hater and being critical?”

Which sparked a conversation between her friends (myself included) to define what’s a hater and what’s being critical, or, in educational terminology, what is the difference between being a hater and being a critical thinker?

I thought this might be a good lesson to bring into the classroom.

According to the reference we go to when we need to understand a new word in the slanguage used by our students, urbandictionary.com, hater has many definitions. One definition is (all spelling/grammar errors courtesy of the website):

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.Hating, the result of being a hater, is not exactly jealousy. The hater doesnt really want to be the person he or she hates, rather the hater wants to knock somelse down a notch.
Susan: You know, Kevin from accounting is doing very well. He just bought a house in a very nice part of town.
Jane (hater): If he is doing so well why does he drive that ’89 Taurus?

This is the first definition offered, and it received 5,500+ thumbs up signs from those who frequent urban dictionary. Of course, there are other definitions, too, such as:

Overused word that people like to use just because someone else expresses a dislike for a certain individual.
PERSON 1: I don’t like Beyonce’s new song.

PERSON 2: You’re a hater!!! (Definition 2)

And:

The most non-insulting “insult” in existence. It’s a waste of breath to say it and a waste of energy to type it. This term is often used by pre-teen girls whenever someone insults their favorite teeny bopper singers. If you ever call somene a hater, find the nearest knife and use it pierce your lungs for polluting our air with that fucking stupid word.
Smart person: “Justin Bieber has no talent”
Pre-teen girl: “lik3 oMG fuk offf u hater ! !!”
Smart person: “Kill yourself” (Definition 7)

One of her friends, whom I have since Googled and found to be a Law Professor at Northwestern University (not too shabby), explained his take:

The very concept of a hater is anti-intellectual and kinda silly. Being a critic has nothing to do with hatred. Labeling someone a hater is generally a way to discount someone’s criticism without engagement.

But I disagree with him.

In my opinion, a concept of a hater is someone who isn’t expressing criticism–they are expressing an emotion, a gut response, but MINUS any criticism. I think that by calling and/or labeling someone a hater, it is a way to call them outon the anti-intellectual and/or kinda silly and/or kinda mean comment that they made. It’s a gentle way of teasingly telling them to DIG DEEPER and tell me WHY you really think that. Add some criticism! Add some thought! Take your words seriously!

For example, when The Onion shamefully Tweeted that Quevenzhané Wallis, the 9 year old actress nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for the amazing film “Beasts of a Southern Wild,” seemed like a cunt (yes, you read that correctly) THATwas being a hater. Why?

I watched all the of Oscars, from the red carpet until the bitter end, and I”ll admit, the little girl seemed a little brat-like. Every time the camera pointed on her, she made muscles and made a sassy face at the camera. I kept thinking–as a parent–did her parents or agent or someone coach her on how to behave tonight?  Because yes, she was the youngest nominee EVER for this category (big props for that!), but I felt her actions could have been more gracious. Yes, it’s hard for a 9 year old to be gracious. Yes, she was amazing. Yes, she deserves her fame and the shiny happy feelings of that evening, but I just kept wanting her to demonstrate humility or humbleness or graciousness in some way all night, and I don’t feel like I saw that. Again, I was looking at her through the lens of parenthood, not Hollywood, but if she were my daughter, I would not have been thrilled with her performance that evening.

Okay–do you see the difference? You can choose to call her a cunt or you can choose to express an opinion backed up with evidence that supports your critique.

THAT is the difference between being a hater and being a critical thinker. A critical thinker DIGS DEEPER, beyond the visceral reaction, and explains to the world what fueled that reaction.

Use your brain, get in touch with your own thought processes, and connect the two with well conceived words. That’s the bridge between being a hater and a critic.

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