Thursday, August 11, 2022

On Reacting

 We have become a society of reaction.

I am not sure where this change specifically occurred. I would like to say that the social media culture created it, except that I find it somewhat unbelievable that an entire societal shift happened in that short a period of time.  It had to have been moving that way anyway, until the technology of social media made it possible to react in full force.  

Once upon a time - and within my lifetime - this would have been called "flying off the handle". Now, it too often seems to pass for thoughtful response and action.

Every action now begets a reaction, almost without an afterthought. No matter what subject - anything from politics to food to simple tasks- we are deluged daily by not a series of thoughts or rational opinions, but reactions.  And this is not limited to one "side" of the argument:  both sides engage in such behavior.  Often, the reactions almost outpace the actual developments themselves.

As you may have discerned, I am not a fan of the "reaction".

Partially it is due to the fact that I have often reacted instead of being thought and deliberate, and almost without exception it has never accomplished the things I intended to do. Partially it is due to the fact that reactions, being too often not clearly thought out and considered, essentially just gives ammunition to the other side; sometimes the reactions create more of an opening than the original action themselves.  And partially, I suppose, simply because in reacting, we use words and thoughts and more often than not fail to advance those things we are reacting against.

The response to this is that just because there is a thoughtful and reasoned response, it is not necessarily better than a reaction. And I acknowledge that. People can be thoughtful and just as wrong as reacting (although to be fair, at least in the thoughtful response one can see the reasoning, even if one disagrees with it).

The question I have come to ask myself every time I feel myself reacting is "Will this accomplish what I actually intend it to?"  Most of the time, the answer is simply "no".  A reaction given in the heat of the moment is not nearly as effective to the long term plans or goals as is something that is carefully thought through.

Reacting also seems to "give away the store".  Most reactions - most of my reactions anyway - will reveal far more about where I am personally and my opinions and thoughts and even goals than perhaps I intend to reveal.  

When I considered the bulk of individuals who have accomplished what they intended - and that could be construed as "successful" even if not in the way the World would view it - they are not caught in the almost mindless frenzy of action/reaction.  They simply continue on towards what their goal is, be it world peace or founding a religious order or the world athletic record or business success.  The goal determines their actions (and reactions), not events.

The question, at least for me, always has to be "What am I actually trying to do?" and "Will reacting make that more or less likely?"


  1. Good stuff: The question, at least for me, always has to be "What am I actually trying to do?" and "Will reacting make that more or less likely?"

    You are a thinker. That's why I like this nice place. It's a good place to test my mettle.

    The reaction mentality is like the mob mentality. You have to strike fast to get your licks in. And if no one notices, you ratchet up the output. If it's public. What concerns me is my private reactions when they are intemperate. That exposes a fault line in my character. I have when that happens. I have to dig to find the issue then.

    Maybe that's why the old sayings point out self-control:

    Beware the fury of a patient man.

    He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. Proverbs 16:32

    1. STxAR, that is exactly the question: What are trying do? Score points? Fix a problem? Win a battle? That should determine our response. For me, I am working to respond in ways that move things forward.

      Reaction mentality as a mob mentality. That is a great thought I need chew on more.

  2. Anonymous11:09 AM

    It seems like since fb and twit everyone thinks reaction and confrontation is alright. I have friends who have been attacked for a comment. I stay off all of them. That my reaction to the incivility I se everywhere.

    1. Social media has pushed the envelope and made it acceptable to explode (figuratively) online. Incivility is not a bad term to use to describe the current situation.

  3. Jeez TB, I have to disagree here too. I get what you are thinking but...

    I see it as being exactly opposite. We are a nation of provocateurs. We mock others, move to deny them the things they want and need - and when those people react, we scream like babies and accuse them of being uncivil or unchristian.

    We are coming up on times now where fast reaction times are going to be crucial.

    Game Theory has proven that the best way to deal with abusers is to 'screw' them the exact same way, to the exact same extent as they try to do it to you. Timing is also critical - you have to do it the second they attack you. As I said in your previous post yesterday - classical biblical doctrine also supports this. The only exceptions to that would be where you are dealing with someone who has transgressed in error or ignorance, or if restraint will lead to improved relations later. You being abused is not God's will.

    Just my two cents, whadda I know...

    1. Glen, I can use the recent example of a raid on a Former Occupant's dwelling. Without having cracked a single website, I could predict the almost immediate reaction from everyone. I checked after a bit - I was 100% right. Everyone reacted. Everyone shouted loudly. No-one surprised me in their reactions.

      Predictable response make for predictable people. Predictable people can be easily manipulated into responses that will not further their cause, but actually put them in a worse position.

      Almost every strategist's first admonition starts with something like "Do not reveal your purposes, strategies, or actions". Immediate reactions defeat this.

  4. You are probably right in that this default mode of reaction predates the explosion in social media use. However, one particular aspect of social media that makes this a much more serious business now is the trend to these reactions being hidden behind a false i.d. - it is more difficult for most people to react in the particularly aggressive manner that social media seems to foster when everyone can see who you really are.
    I think that it is probably related to the rise in "blame" culture - whatever happens someone must be blamed and sued for recompense, setting people against each other.

    1. Will, the ability to manipulate via false identities (I say that - I use a Nom de Plume as much as anyone) certainly makes it easier to be careless with one's words. At the same time, opinions are often handled selectively today as well: were a standard rule applied to all comments, it might mediate things. As it is, people often discuss things with aliases due to the inability to speak in the public square and have their ideas heard.

  5. If you don't react the way they expect, you gain the initiative.

    1. John, that is exactly it. It is the silent and non-reactive that are the most dangerous, simply because they do not indicate their next steps, not those that react predictably and immediately in every situation.

  6. Excellent points, TB. I call it the bumper-car mentality. We run around and react to whatever we bump into. Then, before anything useful can be accomplished, we're off bumping into something else. Yes, we should think before we react, but I wonder how many people are actually able to do that?

    Maybe it's because of my relatively reclusive lifestyle, but more and more I feel no need to offer anything, whether it's an emotional reaction or a more thoughtful response. Usually, my opinion isn't required. Even on important points, it's getting harder and harder to help someone see a situation from another perspective. And conversation--that old-fashioned pastime of exchanging different opinions because it was interesting and entertaining to do so--is completely lost in today's society.

    The biggest problem with the current trend of pop-off reactions, is that working to evoke them makes people easy to manipulate. And that's a game I just don't enjoy playing.

    1. Leigh, a "bumper car mentality" is actually quite the accurate description. And oddly enough, one can find all kind of inspirational quotes about "taking a moment before reacting" which people like to post on their social media, but somehow can never seem to live by it.

      Although my life is a different sort of reclusive than yours (mostly a combination of working at home and at The Ranch), my experience is the same. When discussion happen and opinions are expressed, I mostly stay silent - because people no longer really want to engage in another perspective or learn, they just wish to have their opinions and beliefs validated (to be fair, I am as guilty of this as anyone).

      And indeed, people are so easy to manipulate now. Even I, as non-people and social media conscious as I am, could create a firestorm in 140 characters. This is not a healthy trend.


Comments are welcome (and necessary, for good conversation). If you could take the time to be kind and not practice profanity, it would be appreciated. Thanks for posting!