If I had to choose one word, just one, to define this society of liquid relationships in which we live, it would be: “reaction”. Reacting has become an imperative. And the sooner, the better.
In the world of immediacy and social networks, whoever reacts first wins. Whoever says what’s on their mind first. Who writes the opinions of him. Whoever condemns the alleged offender or sides with the alleged victim, even if there is no reliable evidence. The facts are the least of it. The important thing is to react.
The problem is that so much immediacy has a price. And its cost is often too high: our ability to reflect. Immediacy is usually like a steamroller that has no qualms about leaving facts, good sense and logic by the wayside to plunge us into a whirlwind of opinions with more or less sense.
The taboo of slowness and the stupidity of speed
Carl Honoré, a journalist and spokesperson for the “Slow movement”, said that we live in a world where the fast-forward button seems to be stuck, a world obsessed with speed that always wants more in less time, so that every day it becomes a race against time.
They have instilled in us the idea that speed is synonymous with progress. You always have to move forward – and the faster the better. React, without stopping to think much. Because if we fall behind, if we slow down a little, it is synonymous with failure.
In the world of fast food and quick Tinder matches, we’ve become so addicted to speed that we want to speed up even things that are slow by their very nature, like thinking.
When we favor quantity over quality and rush to react, we take away from our minds the time it needs to reflect on what happened, soak up emotions, redefine ideas and, finally, elaborate a mature, reflective and even equidistant response.
“Over time we have forged a very strong taboo against slowness. Slow is a dirty word, it’s a shameful word in this society. Slow is synonymous with stupid, clumsy and very negative things,” said Honoré.
However, “slow” thinking has many advantages and levels of richness. Creativity and brilliant ideas often simmer under the watchful eye of the subconscious, which has its own rhythm and doesn’t give in to the rush. When we are more relaxed and calm we can develop deeper and more nuanced thinking. See the different edges. Notice the mistakes. Retrace our steps – if necessary. Connect loose ends…
When we rush to react we lose all that. Impulse supersedes reflection. Inaccuracy takes the place of precision. Emotions trump logic. Recklessness condemns good sense. Precipitation wipes out serenity at a stroke.
Saying that the final result is not good is an understatement. The individual vanishes to join the masses that try to react as quickly as possible to situations that demand pause and reflection. And all so as not to seem slow. To ride the trend. To give an opinion on what is popular. To be noticed.
Recovering the capacity for reflection, mission impossible?
Fortunately, today we no longer have to deal with saber-toothed tigers on our heels. Reacting quickly is important in life-threatening circumstances, but with those few exceptions aside, taking time to decide how to respond is usually a much smarter decision.
When we are trapped in the chaotic and frantic spiral that society has built with its technological tools, trying to react as quickly as possible, we do not realize that we have lost control of our behaviors, feelings and thoughts.
We think it’s normal. After all, everyone does. But it’s not. That feeling of urgency to react clouds our judgment, produces a full-blown emotional hijacking and prevents us from thinking about how to respond to an event or even deciding if we want to respond or if it’s worth it. The unbridled race for the reaction ends up draining our psychological energy.
The obsession with speed is also transforming our attention. The need to be instantaneous forces us to simplify the information. We become human scanners, mere “decoders” of bits of information that we pick up as we scroll horizontally across the screen picking up loose ideas instead of delving deeper.
This is how misunderstandings are generated. Quick judgments are thrown. People are morally stoned. The facts are distorted. We jump to wrong conclusions. Because what matters in a fast-paced society is not understanding but scoop and immediacy.
That obsession with the reaction ends up generating a deafening noise. Lots of words with little substance. Many recriminations, but few solutions. Much contradiction and little agreement. Lots of action, but little connection. Lots of data, but meaningless.
All this leads to a chaotic and fragmented vision of the world because it eliminates those moments of reflective pause that help us understand what is happening from a broader perspective. It prevents us from giving meaning to what happens in order to incorporate it constructively into our intellectual baggage. Thus we accumulate information, but not knowledge. We accumulate years, but not wisdom. We react, but we do not understand. Although perhaps, in a society obsessed with breaking its record of reactions, talking about reflection is already a utopia in itself.
(2020) Vivimos en una sociedad tan obsesionada con la reacción que hemos perdido esa capacidad de reflexión. In: Web del Maestro CMF.