Why It’s So Delicious To Bond Over Something You Both Hate

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
This week we saw the launch of new dating app Hater, which matches you with potential dates based on the things you hate, rather than the things you love. Although it may sound a little mean-spirited, it also sounds super fun — and like it might actually work. Think about it: Chatting about how excited you are about the next season of Stranger Things is nice and all, but isn't it infinitely more satisfying to shit-talk whatever annoying thing T-Swift did this week? It's not your imagination: Having a shared dislike of something (or someone) really is a common and powerful way to start a connection with another person. In a 2006 study published in Personal Relationships, researchers asked participants about the traits they share with their closest friends and how those friendships were formed. Their results showed that, not only was having a mutual dislike for a third person a basis for a friendship, it was more potent than having a mutual appreciation for a third person. "Although shared positive attitudes are indeed important in promoting friendship," the authors write, "there seems to be something especially delicious about the process of sharing our grievances about other people." Indeed, according to a 2011 follow-up study, this phenomenon doesn't just help you make friends, it helps you make those friendships deeper. Here, 77 college student participants were told that they and a partner in another room (who did not actually exist) either liked or disliked the same professor. Those who were told they had a shared dislike reported knowing much more about their "partners" and rated higher on scores of familiarity. But building that sense of closeness isn't just great for friendships, it's crucial for romantic relationships, too. And in the swipe-everything-all-the-time age, being able to get there quickly matters. If connecting over a shared dislike helps that process along, go for it. So why is complaining about other people such a powerful relationship builder? Essentially, it's a shortcut to building a sense of trust and intimacy: We're all supposed to say nice things about other people. So when we go against societal expectations and say mean things, it feels like we're confiding in someone we're really close with — even if we barely know them.

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