Timely Responses vs. Formed Opinions

In the age of the internet, we suddenly have unprecedented access to information in real-time. One of the unintended consequences of that real-time access is the increasing pressure to respond in real-time to this influx of information.

Don’t believe me?

Think of any major event that’s happened recently. I’ll take Amy Winehouse’s death as an example. Before the information had been confirmed, it was all over the Twitterverse as people were responding to the news of her death with comments such as:

  • RIP Amy!!! Gone too soon!
  • Amy Winehouse was the best!
  • We’ll all miss you Amy!

I don’t want to suggest that these statements are unfounded or inauthentic, but these are hardly unique thoughts. I saw tons of similar sentiments on my Facebook newsfeed, Twitter stream, and other social media outlets. They’re instantaneous reactions to a breaking news development.  As soon as one person posted about her death, I (and as far as I can tell, many of my friends) felt obligated to respond on some level. These responses ranged from the genuinely empathetic to the depressingly cynical, but nonetheless, most people choose to respond.

Psychologically, I think it’s difficult not to respond. In the case of Ms. Winehouse, I was upset that more of my friends were discussing her death than the recent attack in Norway, and my reference to her death was along those lines. The strange part though was that despite my inclination to tweet about Norway in lieu of Amy Winehouse, I still felt compelled to reference and thereby respond publicly to her death.

With this tremendous social pressure, there’s an inherent danger that people will respond simply out of obligation rather than responding with true, premeditated intent. The immediacy of internet responses encourages us to circumvent the opinion-forming period. Instead of truly considering how we feel about a given issue, we feel this pressure to respond quickly lest we lose credibility for our lack of interest in the topic at hand. To be honest, I didn’t know how I felt about Amy Winehouse’s death at the time, and I’m not even convinced I have a strong enough opinion about it now to merit a social media mention (apparently enough for a blog mention though). Frankly, I don’t have to have an opinion on everything and should never feel compelled to state one.

I would rather refrain from voicing an opinion until I figure out which one is truly mine, not the one I feel compelled to project.

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Do you feel social media pressure? Does pressure to respond in a timely manner get in the way of forming coherent opinions? Let me know in the comments.

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2 Comments on “Timely Responses vs. Formed Opinions”

  1. joecantdrive says:

    I think I feel tons of social media pressure and rarely form coherent opinions! I also like responding immediately to events with stupid, generic comments even though I know full well that it’s just one dumb response in a sea of other dumb responses.

    I don’t think anyone is actually expected to form coherent opinions, though. Internet culture sort of discourages the preachy and wordy in spaces that are meant for the mundane and the immediate. Instead, you are given a limited menu of acceptable, neutral responses that you throw out there. Then you exit stage right because it’s all a performance, really haha.

    • Madeline says:

      We still hold many people (eg. politicians, celebrities) accountable for their online & in person opinions. Granted, not all of these people are speaking online for themselves, but they still are expected to speak upon a variety of issues almost instantly. If a politician screws up the facts, he/she becomes a laughing-stock (eg. Michele Bachman).


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