In George Orwell’s book, 1984, the citizens of Oceania participate in a daily scheduled period known as the “Two Minutes Hate.”
During the hate, party members are required to stand in front of a television yelling obscenities and violently raging against ideological enemies flashed on the screen.
Even though the book’s protagonist, Winston, is skeptical about the society he lives in, he remains powerless to resist the crowd’s state-mandated screams. “The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to take part. On the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds, any pretense was always unnecessary.”
No, this is not a regurgitation of that English paper you wrote in high school about the novel or a cliche comparison about the future of “society.’ And no, this isn’t a warning about Big Brother.
But recently, I’ve witnessed a modern version of the Two Minutes Hate among my peers and on this campus.
Here’s the way I see the hate today: An enemy is identified, a crime is announced and the contempt is unleashed. Sound familiar to any of your Facebook timelines?
In a recently published book, The Seven Deadly Virtues, Sonny Bunch writes that our Two Minutes Hate is actually worse than Orwell’s because, “(1) it’s not directed at constructs like “Eurasia” and (2) the government doesn’t orchestrate it. No, the modern Two Minutes Hate is directed at living, breathing people.”
Instead of being told who to hate, like in 1984, the targets are spontaneously decided by the mob “” a social media-empowered mob that can’t be called off. What’s worse is the “crime” committed by those targets doesn’t really matter either. It could be someone saying his or her opinion, something rude or even something suspiciously nice. “All that matters is that we are presented with a face to hate,” Bunch says.
Then, just like in Orwell’s fictional society, it becomes difficult for others passing by, or scrolling through their newsfeed, to join the mob or chime in on the hate. The screen, bright and entertaining (especially GIFs), draws them in like a bug-zapper.
Whether the mob is rallying against Chick-fil-A, or Yik Yak or the Pope, the hate is focused onto the target for a set period of time, and then we go about our business until the alarm is sounded for the next two-minute routine. This anger spews forth into comment sections across the Internet, annihilating the decided target and then moving on until a new target is decided the next day. Boycotts are declared. Hashtags are established. And Kardashian memes commence.
It is still important that thought-provoking ideas and opinions be shared, even via social media when appropriate. Using platforms like Facebook is a simple way to quickly curate thoughts or stories for actual friends and even “Facebook friends.”
But be cautious not to viciously jump into hating whatever target the mob flashes across your screen. Use discourse to think critically about the issue at hand, but don’t abuse likes and shares to murder the puppet the people have selected. The difference may only be in taking a second to do some research on the subject at hand, or pausing to consider the human being on the other side of the screen. But that one second has the power to change the Two Minutes.