By Ryan

No where do things happen faster than on the internet.  I can honestly remember being 14 years old, hearing a news story, and developing some sort of reaction to it, and, inevitably, some newspaper or magazine would run a column in that same vein a few days or weeks later.  This was how it worked.  To quote Dan Bejar, “Your backlash was right where I wanted you!”  That is to say that there was a time when people had a chance to think about things on their own before hearing other people’s opinions on them.vampire-weekend-for-web_0

Flash forward to now when, thanks almost entirely to the internet, backlash is instantaneous.  You read about a band from Columbia called Vampire Weekend in Spin?  Blog commenters have already dismissed them.  Barack Obama just won the Iowa Caucus?  The cable news networks have been dissecting John Edwards’s missteps for hours already.  You don’t hear news anymore, you hear reactions.  In early 2008, I was proposing to anyone who would listen that the backlash to the backlash was the new backlash.  That is, people make up their minds about things right as they happen, make crazy statements, and then have to reevaluate them at a later time.

Take the Nadal-Federer Wimbledon final last summer for example.  Even as it was happening I got a text message from a friend asking “Greatest tennis match ever?”  Let’s be clear: none of my friends like tennis.  The only explanation was that they had read about the match as it was happening online, and the coverage had been so over-the-top that they had actually tuned in to watch, then wanted to jump onboard with the “greatest ever” hyperbole.  When the match finally ended, everyone and their mom was talking about how it was clearly the best tennis match ever, only to be followed immediately by old-timers and insiders proclaiming it to be “not even close.”  Whatever the match was, I have a feeling that stories that came out later that month, year, and so on had/will have a better assessment when they use phrases like “one of the best matches ever” in light of our overreactions being brought to light.

It’s something about how obsessive we’ve become about…everything.  We hear/see/read/taste/smell/feel something and make bold claims about it immediately without really taking any time for discernment, and it’s a real problem.  I don’t pretend to have any ideas on how to fix this because, admittedly, I love to read the first round of backlash much more than the second round; there’s something exciting about all of us reacting together.  And maybe that’s it-we need the universal experience of the first response, if only so we can better figure out how to make a solid judgment on where we differ so that we can craft a healthy second response.  Because, trust me, it’s only a matter of time before the backlash to the backlash to the backlash is the new backlash.  And no one wants that.

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