By Abbey Ferguson | LTVN Reporter/Anchor
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last six months, you’re probably aware of superstar Taylor Swift and talented football player Travis Kelce’s rom-com storyline relationship. And if you’re a football fan, you’ve probably also gotten used to seeing her face on television — not via her typical realm of award shows or in her new Eras Tour movie … but at Chiefs games.
The NFL’s tendency to show clips of Swift attending the games has sparked some controversy in both the sports world and pop culture, with many “dads, Brads and Chads” expressing disdain for her presence, from claiming games are rigged to stating she is ruining football. It’s time to stop hating on Swift for attending Chiefs games, but not for the reason you might think.
Now, I’m aware that I’m probably not the first person to make this claim, and I’m sure you’ve heard the supporting evidence that the animosity toward her presence boils down to blatant sexism. I’m not going to ignore that argument whatsoever, because it is undeniably true in some cases. However, there’s an even more important reason why the internet needs to stop banning together and hating on Swift: We need to practice tolerance for the things we dislike.
Yeah, that’s right. An avid, proud and borderline annoying Swiftie is telling you that I find it OK for you to dislike Swift (although it produces many implications). However, you can despise Swift and her attendance at the games while simultaneously keeping your mouth shut. Why is that seemingly so impossible? People lack this ability because, as a society, especially with the growth of social media, we have lost the key to unlocking tolerance.
The New York Times reported that in an average three-hour football broadcast, Swift is shown for approximately 30 seconds. I find it fascinating that 30 seconds can trigger so much online hate, and it demonstrates how society has lost touch with benevolence — or even, at the very least, pure ambivalence.
This phenomenon poses a variety of questions. If an individual can’t even handle seeing clips of a celebrity they dislike for less than a minute without taking their anger online, how can they handle working alongside an annoying coworker or tolerating the presence of a disgruntled in-law? It takes a lot of energy to perpetuate and sustain the cycle of seeing Swift on TV, becoming so annoyed that you turn angry and choosing to express those grievances on various social media platforms. It takes no energy to remain hateful and quiet. Yet, so many people choose to ignore the latter option. Why?
If we look through the lens of psychology, the answer is clear. The list of gratifications that our psyche is rewarded with by participating in online hate is plentiful. Social media has created the ideal recipe for both anonymity and detachment, which allows individuals to disconnect from the impact of their behavior by hiding behind the mask of a profile. Beyond that, Swift is a celebrity, which grants even more room for disassociation. It’s much easier to express anger when there appear to be no interpersonal repercussions.
Dr. Joseph B. Walter from UC Santa Barbara presents another factor in the psychological explanations behind social media hate, discussing how online antagonism promotes social connection. Online haters are overly aware that Swift isn’t going to stop coming to her boyfriend’s football games just because they post a mean tweet or contribute to Facebook backlash. So, there must be another, deeper explanation. Sharing a mutually hated target and posting about it in a public space creates connection while simultaneously deepening prejudice and providing confirmation bias.
This isn’t limited to social media spaces either. Think about a time you bonded with another individual based solely on sharing a mutual dislike. Humans are social creatures who crave validation, and forming friendships through shared annoyance is one way to fill that need. This happens all the time; Swift just happens to be a vulnerable leading target, especially considering the stable foundation for backlash laid by a deep history of sexism and online hate that she has already faced for the last decade.
Now, I get it. Freedom of speech is a vital American liberty, and anyone should be able to express their opinions on the matter freely. I’m a journalist writing an opinion article, for goodness sake. I’m practically married to the First Amendment. However, it is also important to recognize how such behavior plays a role in the larger implications of social media warfare and diminishes the lost art of toleration.
Evaluate your behavior on a psychological level. Is expressing online hate just an attempt to fulfill a desperate need for a quick dopamine release and social interaction?
With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I challenge you to practice toleration and withhold from participating in the overwhelming backlash that we all know Swift is going to face. Maybe if we stopped shouting about trivial issues such as this, it would be quiet enough to work through the more complex ones.