Throwing Shade is Only Cool if You’re a Tree

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We’ve heard it, seen it, tweeted it, posted it, and pinned it. From celebrities casting “shade” like Redwoods in the forest to little backhanded remarks in our Facebook feed, it’s becoming cool not to be nice.

Throwing shade: “To talk trash about a friend or acquaintance, to publicly denounce or disrespect. When throwing shade it’s immediately obvious to on-lookers that the thrower, and not the throwee, is the bitchy, uncool one”

Thank you, Urban Dictionary, for perfectly describing this gross social phenomenon.

There is a celebrated history of shading (can I make it a verb like that?). From the conniving and beautiful Mean Girl Regina George and company (whose funny insults can now assault you from T-shirts), celebrities galore, and the cast of Real Housewives of Wherever, giving sass is almost an Olympic sport.

Let’s clear this up right now. Throwing shade? It only seems cool on TV. In true reality (meaning the life the rest of us live without walk-in closets the size of a kitchen), no one wants to hang with the girl or guy who only rags on people and then attempts to disguise their critique under the umbrella of, “Oh, I wasn’t talking about you.”

I get it though. There is that undeniable rush (a high Walter White had nothing to do with) that comes with a well-timed zinger and dramatic side-eye.

“Conventional theories of moral behavior and decision-making assume that unethical behavior triggers negative emotions,” Psychology Today wrote in “Warning: Being Bad Can Feel Good.”

“These theories help support the idea that we are internally motivated to do the right thing, because it makes us feel bad not to.”

Nice theory, but nope. A study by researchers Nicole Ruedy, Francesca Gino, Celia Moore, and Maurice Schweitzer, at the University of Washington, the London Business School, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania found that during their study, The Cheater’s High: The Unexpected Affective Benefits of Unethical Behavior, people who cheated on a test didn’t feel a rush of guilt overtake them, but rather a positive emotional boost. This boost was dubbed a “cheaters high.”

The researchers further said “once people have this experience, it may be difficult to resist future unethical behavior, especially when someone can derive both material and psychological rewards’ from the behavior.”

And that’s why it can feel good to be bad. But are the “material and psychological rewards” worth the brief rush and the cheap laughs? Let’s vote no. Let’s support and promote each other without belittling.

And if you’re still really into throwing shade? Help save the Redwood trees. I hear they need it.


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