Knee-Jerk Syndrome: How Social Has Created a Sense of Immediacy?

By: Guest | February 24, 2011 | 

Shonali BurkeShonali Burke is the IABC-accredited, award-winning principal of Shonali Burke Consulting, where she helps you turn your corporate codswallop into community cool.

Are you suffering from what I call KJS, or Knee-Jerk Syndrome?

I know I have to watch out for it.

Social is great. I love social. And yes, even though countless folks (including myself) have railed against that as a misnomer, I’m guessing we’ll keep calling it social until we can collectively come up with a better name for it.

Social lets us connect with people almost immediately. Scratch that—immediately.

Social lets us rave immediately. Rant immediately. Diss someone immediately. Ravage a blog post immediately.

With all this immediacy at our fingertips, are we losing the art of reflection? Are we losing the ability—or the desire—to think? Used to be, when we didn’t feel the need—or have the ability—to respond immediately to something, we (or, at least, most mature adults) would take the time to absorb the messages we were receiving. Think about the news we were hearing. Delve deeper into whether what we were being told was, in fact, true. And then… only after thinking something through, we’d respond.

Now, however, we can respond to what we see, hear, are told, immediately.

It’s not just that we can that is leading us to do so. It’s also that those who do are likely to get their responses picked up more quickly, shared more quickly, and perhaps gain prominence more quickly.

Be considered “thought leaders.” “Pioneers.” “Influential.”

Immediacy is not always a bad thing. After all, the lightning speed at which brands and organizations respond is often what people respond to—I know I do. How quickly they pick up on acclaim as well as criticism can make or break their perception, and set the course for whether they will suffer a dent in their reputation or, rather, transcend it.

But what sets these brands apart from the rest is that they’ll do their due diligence in trying to figure out what’s going on, and then respond.

They may not have a couple of days, or a day, or more than a few hours to do it, but they will try to figure out what’s going on first… without giving in to KJS.

Can you and I say the same about ourselves? Truly?

Like when Bill Cosby died. (He didn’t). Or when Brad Pitt was on campus. (He wasn’t).

Much has been written about how social might be the precursor to us losing our humanity. I’m not in that camp; I think social gives us amazing ways to connect with each other (case in point: this guest post).

What I sometimes wonder is whether social might cause us to stop thinking, reflecting, contemplating, to the point where we become click-happy morons.

I certainly hope we don’t. And not giving in to KJS would be a good place to start.

What do you think?

Shonali Burke is the IABC-accredited, award-winning principal of Shonali Burke Consulting, where she helps you turn your corporate codswallop into community cool. She blogs at Waxing UnLyrical, under the watchful eyes of Chuck, Suzy Q. and Lola, her three rescue dogs. Her long-suffering husband has accepted that Shonali can most often be found on Twitter.

  • Shonali, I think you bring up a great point! I think the art of reflecting, pondering and gaining perspective on an issue could get lost in all of the immediacy of social media. However, before SM sites like twitter really grew, I wasn’t gaining any perspective on PR and SM topics from sources other than from my college professors and the books we read. Now, because of sites like twitter, I am instantly connected to articles, opinions and posts that are actually benefical (such as this one!) : ) As we consume different posts, articles, and opinions we have to use a filtering system, discerning the value of what we read. The beauty, iis that there is much more information available, coming in much greater volumes than it ever has before. If we aren’t taking time to actually reflect and gain perspective on what we consume, we are really missing the boat!

    Sorry for the novel… I guess I am passionate about he subject … : )

  • @BethLandis Yay for being the first to comment – thank you! That’s really true – there is so much more infomation available; in fact, it’s almost overwhelming at times, isn’t it? Sometimes I feel as if I don’t respond immediately, I’ll miss the boat, but on the other hand, when I take the time to reflect, I get to sail on a better boat. (Don’t even know where that analogy came from, since I’m not a sailor, LOL). Or maybe I have to learn how to reflect and then opine much more quickly. So much to learn…

  • KyleAkerman

    Shonali, I heard a similar idea expressed just last week at a UC Booth technology conference. The keynote speaker said that “the internet has killed contemplative thought.”

    IMO there have always been and will always be people who talk before they think. But now Social Media platforms provide these people with ways to instantly spread their opinions to the world.

    The downside of Social Media occurs when KJS leads to FIMS (Foot in Mouth Syndrome).

  • @KyleAkerman … and so SM is an extension of their verbal chatter… very true.

    I don’t know if the Internet has “completely” killed contemplative thought. There are lots of blog posts that are well thought-out, and it takes my breath away when I see really long ones that are clearly the result of a lot of thinking and analysis – conversationage springs to mind immediately. ingrid abboud is another one who is clearly thinking all the time. So it’s still there, but the less reflective posts, particularly on micro platforms, do get a lot of attention, precisely because they are so quick and easy to share.

    In India, we used to call this “verbal diarrhea.” I feel like its “online diarrhea” sometimes.

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  • @Shonali @KyleAkerman conversationage Okay, first of all – I’m truly honored that you mentioned me here. Thank you Shonali – coming from you it means a lot.

    Oh, and we say “verbal diarrhea” in Lebanon as well. We (cough) also say “intellectual masterbation” – but that’s a different story all together lol. Now I’m off to continue reading the rest of the post (got to excited that you mentioned me and came down here half way though lol) and comments :).

  • @Griddy You’re so funny! OMG, we used “IM” too… gives a whole other meaning to that acronym, doesn’t it?

  • @Shonali @KyleAkerman conversationage God I wish there was an edit button here! Please let no one pick up on my 112 typos lol 😉

  • @Shonali Hey I think you and I were replying to each other at the same time lol ;).

  • @Griddy I’m… inside… Griddy’s… mind… and… she… is… inside… mine… beep beep beep…

  • KyleAkerman

    @Shonali conversationage ingrid abboud I agree with you that the Internet has not “completely” killed contemplative thought. In fact it has given greater exposure to amazing thinkers all over the world. But it has also increased the amount of verbal diarrhea we have to tolerate. As with many things in life, you have to take the good with the bad.

  • @Shonali @BethLandis I’m butting in here ladies ;).

    Beth – you’re so right about the amount of information available and the volumes it’s coming in. It’s actually quite ovewhelming as Shonali said. I often get lost at the plethora within the plethora of articles and opinions. It’s almost hard to choose what perspective is the correct one if you’re clueless about the issue. You can learn all you want about it but at some point I have to stop so I don’t get lost even further.

  • I don’t believe a thoughtful, reflective, intelligent person can become a moron. Moreover, I don’t believe a moron can become thoughtful, reflective, intelligent person either.

    Short of some kind of miraculous event, people don’t usually change their stripes. I didn’t say never; however very rarely. I’m still trying to recall one account and I can’t : )

  • TheFriendlyBlogger

    “Like when Bill Cosby died. (He didn’t).”

    I said to myself…OMG, when the hell did I miss this death??! LOL. I think social media has certainly impacted critical thinking processes and opened up a world of “moronism.” Just look at the YouTube videos that go viral overnight….most of them are people falling off tables when their giant girth shoudn’t be up there anyways, news reporters messing up….oh yes, let’s applaud!

    However, the filp side is that social media can connect across plains and territories, mental, emotional and physical like nothing ever before.

  • jpundyk

    while I absolutely take your point — and there are countless examples of too-quick-to-comment syndrome out there, I actually think something else is going on: thoughtfullness. Because we all have an ‘audience,’ — and a reputation that evolves from what we put in front of that audience –I see many more people actually being, dare I say?, thoughtful before they speak/publish. Yes, there’s plenty of noise in the system, but the beauty of the system is that the noise is quickly burried and the good stuff rises to the top. We all have a great incentive to rise to the top. We can argue about measures of influence, but intuitively we understand that that’s the prize — and thoughtfulness is the currency to gaining a piece of that prize. so, yes, lots of thoughtlessness out there. but also, very easy to identify and disregard that thoughtlessnes. And, happily, lots of thoughfullness out there, driven by what happens when there’s a level of transparency applied to discourse. so, i take your point, but I look at it from the other side and applaud those who accept the responsibility that comes with the power to communicate — and thank technology for giving me acces to so much honest reflection.

  • Frank_Strong

    This is a great post, Shonali. We have the added pressure of more information to process from a greater number of sources. The natural inclination is to “complete task and on to the next” as fast as possible. It’s certainly conditioning us psychologically as individuals, but also collectively as a society. It’s easy to see when we travel and get annoyed at the slower place out West or overseas.

  • beastoftraal

    Excellent post. I frankly do not have any more than what I blogged about on a similar premise.
    There have been many instances when socail media was equated with a phone ringing in the organization, but social media is *not* like that phone ringing in your organization. Social media is more like a million phones ringing at the same time within your organization – that is the big difference.

    It takes an informed client and agency combination to ascertain the best/average response times and stick to it. Remember…as a brand owner, you have a choice and can set the tone about how fast you want to interact/respond. Real-time is something you choose to allow happen; it is not a default. Contextual plug, full post –

  • @KyleAkerman Very true. Do you think our tolerance level has increased or decreased along with the information overload and/or verbal diarrhea?

  • @GACConsultants Ha! Nicely put. I am actually thinking of someone right now who is a very smart person intellectually, but the way s/he writes, comes across as a moron, or at least as someone very out of touch (not someone anyone here would know). I think you’re absolutely right in that people rarely change their stripes, if ever… but I still wonder if the more we react instinctively, the less time we take to process. I find myself doing that, but I try to take a deep breath and not hit “send” immediately… but maybe I was a moron to start with. :p

  • @TheFriendlyBlogger LOL, me too! I completely agree wth you about the amazing connections social lets us make (all of us on this thread are living proof of that). It’s quite fascinating.

  • @jpundyk Yes! That’s why people like @ginidietrich , @Griddy etc. stand out.

  • @Frank_Strong I think it’s also ironic that when we travel to places that move slower, we get simultaneously irritated at that pace (or lack thereof) but would like to be a part of it… I suspect many of us feel that way, but am curious – do you ever feel like that?

  • @beastoftraal “Real-time is something you choose to allow happen; it is not a default.” I really like that. If I want to use it somewhere, may I, with credit to you?

  • beastoftraal

    @Shonali Sure!

  • @Griddy @Shonali Haha Shonali I love the analogy! I agree there is SO much to sift through and reflect on. Although there is a lot to choose from, I normally gleen from the people I find are the most credible sources, and then I see what they are reading as well!

  • @BethLandis @Griddy “I normally gleen from the people I find are the most credible sources” … My guess is most of us do. And that’s where we start to get perilously close to the subject of influence. Believe me, you don’t want me to get back on that soapbox again, LOL.

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  • KyleAkerman

    @Shonali I know my own tolerance level for verbal diarrhea has gone down. There is so much online information available and so little time to consume it all that once I have identified people I find interesting I follow them and ignore most of the other noise that is out there. Has your tolerance level varied with the information overload?

  • @Shonali @Griddy You’re right. Basically are we doing any of our own thinking, are any of our ideas authentic? YIKES, this all makes me feel like I want to unplug for a little bit.

    Disclaimer: I just really like the word “gleen”, (like my word of the month) its a fun challenge to find sentences I can use it in…is that bad!? Haha

  • Frank_Strong

    @Shonali @Frank_Strong Of course, I think many people do which is what I was trying to drive at. You’re on to something Shonali, there’s definitely a sociological study waiting to take place.

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  • @Frank_Strong … or maybe someone’s already done one (a sociological study) and we just don’t know about it. What’re you waiting for, Mr. Vocus? :p

  • @beastoftraal Awesome – thank you!

  • @BethLandis @Griddy Tell you what, read an Alexander McCall Smith book, and you’ll be full of words that you want to find sentences for. Like “oleaginous.” Isn’t that scrumptious?

  • @KyleAkerman That’s a really interesting question. If I were to respond via KJS :p I’d say it’s actually increased. However, on thinking more about it, I don’t know if my tolerance level has increased, or my ability to zone out the BS has increased, because the latter definitely has.

    Would we equate “ability to zone out BS” with “tolerance”? My initial feeling is no, because “tolerance” would imply that we recognize BS for what it is and let it pass; whereas “zone out” would imply we’re just not paying that much attention. But I could easily be wrong; what do you think?

  • My parents taught me at a young age to “think before you say something”. It may not have always worked, but I definitely think I continued to improve on this from a young age. Ultimately it’s the same thing online. You should take a minute to think before you say anything, whether it be in person or via Twitter. Either way you can’t take back what you’ve said…the damage can be done but more so online where many more people will see it. Really I think it comes down to teaching children at a young age to stop and reflect whether it be before you say something out loud or you put it as your status update on Facebook. It’s something you must learn and has only become more important with social media.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • 3HatsComm

    Smart thoughts @Shonali Reading the comments from @jpundyk @KyleAkerman @BethLandis Like Beth I’m more connected, better informed via social media yet of course suffer from overload at times. I go back to the user, we are what we make of our social media time. Do we filter the noise, select “better” people to follow, “smarter” blogs to read? I try to be thoughtful when I share something. Do we give into the real-time or do we let things rumble around the attic before jumping in w/ our own comments? I take the time – slow reader 😉 – to consider a post and the comments before I reply or RT. It’s not just the immediacy and speed, the KJS but the ease. It’s become so convenient, just a simple click, effortless. FWIW.

  • jpundyk

    @3HatsComm @Shonali @jpundyk @KyleAkerman @BethLandis nice to see a kindred spirit out there. yet another example of the good stuff rising above the noise.

  • @rachaelseda We were talking about something similar a while back over at my place, weren’t we? Another saying I’ve heard and like – and I’m probably mangling it – is words to the effect, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”

    I think there are limits to that, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it comes back to HOW you say something, right? And thinking about it before actually saying it (or tweeting, or Facebooking it) could make a huge difference.

  • @3HatsComm @jpundyk @KyleAkerman @BethLandis In terms of being a slow reader, I think this is the kind of circumstance where it pays off. 🙂 I think you are one of the most thoughtful people I’ve come to know, Davina. IMHO.

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