People don’t think anymore, they just react. In fact, the pace of acceleration on the reaction to some news story has grown so steadily that people no longer even have time to react, they have to preact.
For example, David Beckham is training with Arsenal. In the old days this meant that David Beckham was training with Arsenal. Now days, the reaction is that Beckham might be signing for Arsenal. The preaction is that Arsenal will never sign anyone, finish 6th, and Beckham could have somehow stopped that.
Or how about the news that Barcelona don’t want to sell David Villa? Judging by Wenger’s comments in today’s press conference there was real interest from Arsenal but Barcelona don’t want to sell. In the old days, this meant that Barcelona don’t want to sell. Now days, the reaction is that Arsenal didn’t offer enough money or didn’t try hard enough. The preaction is that Arsenal never spend enough money and that the only solution is for Usmanov to take over, clear out the board, re-install David Dein, and have Thierry Henry ride into north London on his silver steed to slay greed in football.
The pace of change in these interactions is accelerated by the changes in social media. Blogs supplanted newspapers for a variety of reasons but chief among them was because readers were able to comment in real time. No more waiting to mail a letter to the editor and hope to have it published, simply add a comment to a post. There was an instant gratification for both the writer and the reader.
Facebook and other long-form outlets upped the ability of people to react. Now, readers can share an article and get “likes” and “comments” and that made it possible for everyone to have a bit of the taste of being the blogger in a sense. If the blogger gets satisfaction from an article well received, the reader who shares the article gets a smaller portion of that satisfaction being the one who “discovered” the article and shared it with his friends.
And then twitter happened. It’s a peculiar social media site in that what it does is strips out almost all of the social and just concentrates on sharing the media and the base emotions. To borrow from McLuhan, the media is the message. Sure, you get people having conversations on twitter, but they are simple conversations at best.
Conversations on twitter are intentionally clumsy, the format limits thought to 140 characters but it also puts comments in reverse chronological order: meaning that readers have to scroll down and read up. Thus, conversations that do happen on twitter tend to be more argumentative and less contextual. There is no room for deep context in 140 characters and, in fact, the only conversations that do happen, occur with a shared context already understood between the conversants.
For example, I could be cute and one tweet each of Shakespeare’s plays but for the tweets to be successful, I have to rely on my audience already having read Romeo and Juliet, for example. Only then can they fill in the parts that they want, the quotes they love, the development of Juliet’s character, the regret of Romeo. If you haven’t read the play then all of the beauty is lost, all of the character development is lost, the humanity is lost and reduced to what is essentially a joke. A facade.
But at some point, Twitter stopped being just a place to react without context and became a place to preact. No longer content with just responding to news (that’s old news, perhaps?) people are now predicting a reaction to news that hasn’t happened but that they predict will happen.This is the preaction and it runs the gamut of emotions.
The common prediction among Arsenal fans is that the club won’t buy anyone and that then any number of terrible things will befall Arsenal. Some of the “cooler heads” are saying that they are saving their reaction for when the news actually breaks that Arsenal haven’t signed anyone. But some are already predicting Armageddon.
For example, fans are already fighting in the stands so future fisticuffs is an easy prediction, thus the preaction is to start calling either the people who hold up banners names or the people who start throwing blows names. “If anyone says anything about any banners being held up in the match against Liverpool, they have clearly lost the plot.” Though, since they are hiding behind their keyboards it’s probably much stronger words, like “cunt”, “cuntbucket”, “shitwhistle”, or “Allardyce”.
Arsenal have two days before the end of the transfer window and already the widespread prediction is that the reaction on February 1st is going to be something to behold. This article here is my preaction: I’m staying away from Twitter on February 1st, you should too.