Women's Health

Scroll Patrol

Scroll. Screenshot. Send. Sh*t talk. That’s what I found myself doing every few months with two of my best college friends. It’s not as if I hopped onto Instagram hoping to find a post that we could all ridicule, but whenever one of us did—often plucked from the feed of a wannabe-influencer classmate—that’s what happened. The kicker: No matter how much we detested their digital presence, no one ever suggested deleting them into the virtual ether. We hated their content but loved following them. I was a perpetrator of the so-called “hate-follow”—and I had no intention of stopping.

The New Mean Girls

If Tina Fey’s iconic film were written today, the Burn Book would be No studies have examined the trend, but Erin Vogel, PhD, a social psychologist and postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, has a few theories. First, it could simply be jealousy: You want the “perfect life” they project, and that can be irritating but at the same time addictive. Or you do it to feel better about yourself (uh, guilty): “If somebody’s posts are really annoying, and we feel we’re not that way, then hate-following them can make us feel we’re doing better than they are,” explains Vogel. Last, you likely have people you follow out of obligation to your IRL relationship (a relative, colleague, friend). Even though they make you cringe, you can’t look away, or you feel guilty doing so.

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