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On social sites sometimes people will state, "I hate drama!", as if to say "if you cause drama, please go away."

My theory is the people who say this, in fact, actually like drama... as evidenced by the apparent hatred for it. Has there been any research into this?

People could also say, "I hate being kicked in the rear!", which I'm sure most people would hate, and if it happened commonly enough, people may start posting such on their profiles. This line of thinking leads me to believe that the statement of hatred for drama is the admission that drama is a commonly occurring problem.

Also, it seems to be as reasonable to state this on a profile as it is to hang a sign on a door reading, "I hate thieves!" or a sign on a backside saying, "I hate muggers!" Since people don't commonly hang these types of signs, why do they hang the drama sign on their profiles?

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I think it's the question for English.SE because it's more about the understanding of the phrase –  FolksLord Aug 25 '13 at 18:16
    
Strongly disagree with the above comment. It's not about the phrase itself; it's about the people who use it. –  Nick Stauner Feb 20 at 3:18

5 Answers 5

While the concept is more of a Freudian vestige in the modern world of psychology, it sounds like reaction formation

A type of defense mechanism whereby unacceptable, anxiety-causing emotions or impulses are masked by an exaggerated version of the opposite emotions or impulses.

I think you are on the right track when you speak of the fact that they actually like drama, or harbor feelings that they are secretly dramatic.

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People certainly express a dislike for drama for different reasons, and I'm going to hazard explaining a few of them that I think are potentially useful:

  1. Expressing an opinion on 'drama', especially on social media, is usually a response to a critical incident. Just as one generally does not go around complaining about dishonest auto mechanics (or car salesmen, or insurance salesmen, or crazy psychologists...) just to make conversation, one hopefully does not go around complaining about 'drama' unless one is responding to an event or set of events in-particular.

    What's different about interpersonal conflict is that, unless one is a shut-in, there are limitless opportunities to experience it, and thus there's always a potential cue handy if one wishes to opine. And oh, how some people love to opine!

    This critical incident hypothesis, if you will, is most likely to explain things like updating a profile or making a particular comment, etc. It isn't a sufficient explanation for a pattern of behavior, however - if it seems to be their favorite topic of discussion, it's probably not a simple critical incident.

  2. If it's a person's favorite complaint, or perhaps with a dating-style site if it appears as a litmus test or chief complaint, it could be due to an on-going or past trauma. In other words, someone has experienced interpersonal conflict they find so unreasonable, and so deeply hurtful, that it's their most obvious non-negotiable list item when they go to think about what they don't want.

  3. The reason the op eludes to is, in my favorite way to explain it, the louder he talked of his honor the faster we counted the spoons. This is something we may refer to as an evaluation heuristic: when people proclaim how much they are X, the most likely they are not-X; or the louder they state they hate Y, the more likely they are to exhibit the traits of Y.

    In general, this can be an invaluably useful heuristic. As a woman if you encounter a man who often favors expressing how much he hates wife-beaters, for instance, you would likely do best to stay the hell away from him (as personal anecdote, one of the most vile human beings I've ever met often expressed his violent disgust for domestic violence); child-molesters are often witnessed as offering, unprompted, opinions about treating children well, etc. These sorts of things are red flags.

    And what is a red flag, really? It's something out of the ordinary, not generally experienced, that we perceive as being "statistically correlated" with the experience of something bad. Sometimes these gut feelings are good, sometimes they are mistaken, and they can often be easily manipulated one way or the other - but one is generally wise to never simply ignore such intuitions.

    Now, to be clear, this is only a heuristic - by definition it can be wrong, and it doesn't really 'explain' the behavior itself. It's just a good aid in decision-making.

    So while this is often true and valid, I do not offer this as a real explanation for the behavior. For that I simply continue to...

  4. Selective attentiveness. If a person is dishonest, they surely know the value of honesty - it gives people the benefit of doubts, and "confidence" is the resource they most require to be successful in their manipulations. As such, they are very much aware of honesty and dishonesty, and actively try to cultivate such opinions. If someone seems over-eager to gain your trust, there aren't many ways for that to end well - maybe trying to get you to buy a $20 bottle of fruit juice, at best.

    However, as a criteria this one doesn't have total discriminatory power - people commonly victimized (the ill and disabled, for instance, people of low socio-economic class, etc), with PTSD, and certain personalities might be more focused on honesty and dishonesty. This is also made harder by context - if there is fear of being disbelieved or a lack of personal confidence in the self, this can be thrown way off and a person can be seen as dishonest falsely. Sadly, this same effect causes con-men to be believed because they learn to extort this heuristic and direct attention where they want it.

  5. It's code for something else. What does "drama" even mean? As you point out, who the heck expresses a preference for interpersonal conflict and irrational attention seeking?

    To them, it may have a specific meaning in their mind: a certain set of related behaviors, probably mimicking soap-opera like "blow simple, common experiences out of proportion".

    Sometimes, I totally agree - it's important to have perspective, and if people always have a rain cloud over their head it can be fatiguing to be around them. However, all too often I've found this to be a flag for people who express no particular concern, empathy, or understanding of other people - they just don't care and don't want to be bothered with "other people's problems".

    This all too often reflects a character of selfishness and unconcern with others feelings, emotions, and experiences; someone might be reaching out for a little understanding, or a kind word, or asking for help, or even suffering from a severe mental or physical illness, or just venting. Casually dismissing such things as "drama" is...well, a red flag for me. But again, that's just a heuristic I've found to be useful.

  6. Critical mass, or "everyone else says it". I'm fun-loving, too! From a user-experience view (wearing a different hat), requiring that someone say 'something' without guidance or proper understanding of what someone should or should not say tends to get people to just put what they think is appropriate based upon what other people say or what you tell them they should put.

    Depending on where you are, you can find a whole lot of people saying "no drama". I don't know if they even know what it means, any more than they know whether or not they are fun-loving or positive or outgoing or upbeat.

  7. Boorishness. Some people just don't make good conversation, and maybe they just like to tilt at windmills.

  8. They are middle-school or high-school aged girls. As a father of two of said human beings, it appears to be in the genetic or cultural makeup or realities of modern society that generate actual, imagined, or commentary on, drama.

TLDR;

They might just be, or are in close-contact with, high-school girls. For deeper thinking, see above.

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To build on @ChuckSherrington's answer, I agree that what you're hypothesizing is essentially an application of reaction formation theory. I don't know if your particular applications have been studied, but the reaction formation process in general has been researched and supported (Baumeister, Dale, & Sommer, 1998). Self-deception is one of many factors that distinguishes implicit from explicit motivation (see also McClelland, Koestner, & Weinberger, 1989; Emmons & McAdams, 1991). Reaction formation seems a likely marker of self-deception in cases where implicit and explicit motives conflict...especially if the reaction formation involves complaining! Concordance among various kinds of motives (implicit, explicit, goals, values, strivings, etc.) is important for well-being (e.g., Job, Langens, & Brandstätter, 2009), so expressing negative attitudes like in your examples might be a sign of negative affect elevated by internal conflict.

However, I could easily see your hypothesis being falsified for good reasons. While it's true that people's personalities affect their choices of situations to which they expose themselves (e.g., Beck & Clark, 2009), many of the situations people find themselves in are certainly not chosen. Situations can thus operate independently of preexisting personality characteristics in affecting attitudes (e.g., McShane, 2009; see also the first figure in this answer depicting influences of both personality and external factors on attitudes).

More concretely speaking, it seems likely that many people who "hate drama" feel this way because they can't avoid it, regardless of whether they're actually trying. For instance, my personal experience with "drama" has probably increased due to indirect consequences of choices I've made based on entirely different motives, such as trying to save money by living with several roommates in cheap housing. Those experiences certainly taught me a new level of hatred for drama that now compels me to avoid living with roommates, but I'd sooner say I chose those experiences to avoid financial drama than to test my luck with social drama. Even at the times of those decisions (i.e., even before learning my new level of drama hatred), I recall feeling aversion to the social consequences of my financially driven decisions, not some guilty hint of secret excitement. This is anecdotal of course, but conversations with friends and colleagues lead me to believe my experiences weren't unrepresentative of typical roommate drama.

References

- Baumeister, R. F., Dale, K., & Sommer, K. L. (1998). Freudian defense mechanisms and empirical findings in modern social psychology: Reaction formation, projection, displacement, undoing, isolation, sublimation, and denial. Journal of Personality, 66(6), 1081–1124. Retrieved from http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/vollarj/baumesiter%20roy%20-%20freudian%20defense%20mechanisms.pdf.
- Beck, L. A., & Clark, M. S. (2009). Choosing to enter or avoid diagnostic social situations. Psychological Science, 20(9), 1175–1181.
- Emmons, R. A., & McAdams, D. P. (1991). Personal strivings and motive dispositions: Exploring the links. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17(6), 648–654.
- Job, V., Langens, T. A., & Brandstätter, V. (2009). Effects of achievement goal striving on well-being: The moderating role of the explicit achievement motive. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(8), 983-996. Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/26268289_Effects_of_achievement_goal_striving_on_well-being_the_moderating_role_of_the_explicit_achievement_motive/file/3deec5279fa74c183e.pdf.
- McClelland, D. C., Koestner, R., & Weinberger, J. (1989). How do self-attributed and implicit motives differ? Psychological Review, 96(4), 690–702. Retrieved from http://lab4.psico.unimib.it/nettuno/forum/free_download/mcclelland_89_355.pdf.
- McShane, S. L. (2009). Organizational behavior, 7th ed. (pp. 106). McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/dl/free/0070876940/355897/sample_ch04.pdf.

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I think there are valid points here both within the question and within Chuck's answer. Sometimes the individuals who complain the loudest about something, are indeed the one's facilitating the issue. I believe there is also another aspect to this.

With human progress and the advent of technology. Television introduced serial dramas, one category being soap operas. The whole premise of these was to bring regular drama to the family home, as entertainment. A more available medium than waiting to feed Christians to the lions (as an example, the modern day version being not unlike spectator sports). I believe that as we have been pulled out of our nature hunter and gathering states and being closeted into our technological worlds, we have a lot of excess 'adrenaline' that was necessary for our survival. I believe the human need for these natural battles have been transposed into a need for 'fabricated' or man-made battles.

However, I do not regard all protestations to be regarded as evidence of a masked subconscious (or otherwise) desire. As with the advent of technology has come the internet and the phenomena of online social networking. Bringing a, previously impossible, mixture of individuals together. This aided by the anonymity, so perceived safety of online communication, has led to a reckless bravado when dealing with conflict. The average user of these networks, does not consider the immediate possibility of threat or consequence of aggression, within online conflict; as compared to having an episode of road rage and risking the possibility of upsetting someone with a shotgun in their vehicle, and a willingness to use it.

Coupled with the difficulty of online communication. All body language; voice intonation, facial expressions, hand movements is removed. There is a great range in individual verbal skills when dealing with potential conflict, I believe, more so when these are being translated through an individual's literacy skills. So the potential for misunderstanding and frustration borne from the inability to communicate effectively is far greater than in face to face interactions.

The enormous variance of culture and languages, almost begs for misunderstandings. As what is commonplace within one location, could be a jailable offence elsewhere. An example being, where I live, we swear (curse) as part of our day to day vernacular. It is considered normal to "knock", which is insult lightly our friends. It is a sign of affection. To "bignote" oneself or ingratiate oneself to others, can be regarded as undesirable and fake. Now take that to many places and it's a recipe for disaster and it is hard for the natural cultural style of a person not to surface.

Basically, these factors all form a melting pot for conflict, arguments, perceived insults, retaliatory insults... "dramas". It is very possible for some people to get very sick and tired of this. Given that this type of technology is still in it's infancy, really, it wasn't around when I had my first child, it takes time for people to develop skills to navigate through this intricate maze of networking. Given that the majority of these sites, encourage people to actively display their "status", it makes sense that some people will put the sign on their electronic door saying.. "No more drama".

As to what proportion of individuals fall into which category at what point and for how long... It's like asking.. how long is a piece of string.

Edit. in response to your comment. I realize I have overlooked a pertinent point.

Stable, mature individuals with intact boundaries will be less inclined to involve themselves with drama. A propensity to become entrenched in drama reflects a degree of emotional immaturity and can also be a reflection of an emotional neediness or a present inner conflict of unresolved issues,. These individuals can carry unresolved anger or may be perpetuating a victim mentality. The involvement in drama and the resulting lack of resolution can lead to an adverse reaction to the conflict and the instinctive reaction to keep the drama away, hence the declarations of "I hate dramas".

As the underlying individual conflicts have not been resolved the individual is likely to become embroiled in another conflict resulting in drama.

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Someone ate her wheaties and stayed in a Holiday Inn Express :) So, what can I conclude about someone saying no more drama? That its not someone I want to introduce myself to? I conclude that it is not worth the risk of getting invloved? A big red flag? Or just normal behavior of which I simply look over? –  Randy Aug 25 '13 at 20:05
    
Hmm... so if someone says they're "easy-going", would this same sort of reasoning apply? Where do we draw the line on this reverse psychology of self-descriptors? Or shall we just assume everyone is lying about everything they say of themselves? Should I ask this formally? –  Randy Aug 26 '13 at 4:16
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The funny thing is, people who say they're easy-going seem to be the same ones who say they hate drama. Well, at least I find that funny. Other commonly seen tags are: optimistic and fun-loving (as opposed to fun-hating?). –  Randy Aug 26 '13 at 14:34

How about a simple physiological relationship? Drama increases cortisol level which leaves you feeling depleted. High cortisol is typically associated with increased risks.

Of course, people have a deeply ambivalent relationship with drama, cortisol and risk. Maybe they hate it, maybe they are addicted to it.

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