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José Benigno Freire, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology

Slips in WhatsApp messages

Mon, 07 Nov 2016 10:33:00 +0000 Published in Alto Aragón Newspaper

In reality, these comments are made for any instant messaging application, although I will allude to WhatsApp, simply because I am one of its almost one billion active users. I will analyze, in particular, a relatively frequent occurrence, too frequent: sending or receiving a WhatsApp message with an incorrect or illegible word. A second later, or half a second later, another message comes in with that word spelled correctly. Interpretation: the person sending the message has not read it, but did read it after sending it. Logically, otherwise he would have corrected it before; however, he was carried away by the pressure of immediacy, acted under an unthinking automatism and pressed to send on the fly, almost without finishing writing... It corresponds to an attitude in vogue and booming: receiving a message and answering it is all one.

So it should not be interpreted as a simple mistake, a slip or a blunder, no. It seems to suggest a slight addiction, and also a symptom of mild stress. However, I would now like to point out that its repetition tends to give rise, over time, to an attitude of indifference towards the social attention and towards work. The process starts by slipping into this pathway: answering in haste, haste breeds dullness and dullness is a bad advisor. Hence, ordinarily, the answer can be inopportune, inconvenient, imprecise or equivocal, as well as badly written. Effect of excessive spontaneity... This bad procedure has a psychological explanation:

Any stimulus triggers an emotion. Emotions are characterized by disorganizing the affectivity in an intense and abrupt way, and move to an immediate reaction. A disorganized reaction because it is more concerned with the intensity of the emotion than with the objectivity of the triggering stimulus. I will explain it with a funny example: a step on the foot...; a simple step on the foot incites us to a sudden and heated reaction, almost always exaggerated for the damage caused, so that in most occasions we must restrain this first impulse. The experience of regretting some action -whether valuable or unwise- after responding in the heat of the moment, as they say, is very common. Popular language usually expresses it with a graphic phrase: I have gone too far... Days later things are valued differently.

Well, every message triggers an emotion, more or less intense, positive or negative. If we abandon ourselves to this affective impulse, we will surely react, at least disproportionately. Perhaps with an outburst or an inordinate compliment; after a few minutes we realize the disproportion (as with the misspelled word), but the mess is already sailing the digital oceans. It is necessary to rectify or adjust the message, originated by emotional impulsivity.

To filter the affective coarseness, it is necessary to reflect before acting, because intelligence models and modulates the merely affective reaction to its rational levels; it introduces moderation, objectivity and serenity. But reflection takes time. To do so, it is advisable not to react on the spur of the moment, but to calmly analyze the message and weigh the response; which requires, in addition to a certain amount of time, mastering the rudeness of the emotional, closely linked to the physiological. In final, the reasonable acts of man require a minimum of attention and concentration on the task, and adjust the merely emotional resonances. Haste -I insist- is a very bad advisor.

It may be objected that I am exorbitant. It seems, at first glance, an illogical leap to go from a small gesture when chatting to the conclusion of idleness on the social attention and on the work. I think not. I will illustrate it with another funny example: imagine that you wear a shoe that is too tight to the foot...: no big deal! However, after a long walk, blisters may appear, or walking may become quite uncomfortable; and a slight rubbing, on a compressed foot, causes a sharp pain?

Translating the example to our subject: it is the little by little, continued, that becomes a habit. What is dangerous is reiteration, which crystallizes in the attitude staff of giving priority to doing, instead of doing well: we do not pay attention to the delicacy due to those we address, nor do we appreciate writing with accuracy and correctness. We are entering the harmful territory of sloppiness, of whatever: the point is to answer... now!

In the past, people with a difficult attention -because they reacted impulsively- or with a lightness in the work -because they attended to the first thing that occurred to them or they felt like it- a popular expression was applied to them: first shoot and then aim. These people were considered a prelude and symptom of disaster, in the work or in coexistence.

In short, it is important not to forget the primacy of good work over mere work, even when it is often. That so beautifully expressed by Machado, Don Manuel: "Despacito y buena letra, el hacer las cosas bien importa más que el hacerlas" (Slowly and well written, doing things well is more important than doing them).