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The vanishing of prudence (cooler heads): is instant messaging the culprit?


media-998990_1280Hot heads among the masses are the norm, and it is not un-expected. Their actions and reactions do not reverberate any significant consequences beyond their familiar circles. History is replete with examples of hot headed rulers in autocratic and dictatorial regimes creating devastating decisions with long lasting deleterious consequences.

Hot heads in public sector are well managed by the supporting staff, usually with great success. One of the important requirements for hot heads not to impulsively and reflexively explode has been the deliberation factor. Deliberation requires time to ponder and engage in self-reflection to assess the consequences of the imminent reflexive response. Time and personal space allow to deal with raw emotions and sanitize them, and then with cooler heads to address them in an appropriate manner.

Public figures, particularly in the government, usually, despite their politics, understood the value of cool headedness, and made efforts to cultivate such disposition. Society frowns upon coarseness, particularly in the public and in public officials. Coarseness has the corrosive quality of demeaning oneself, regardless of the content justification of the expression.

The proximity of the devices for instant messaging takes away that precious time and personal space much needed to deliberate on the raw emotions and to find ways to re-orient them. Most individuals, and especially those who rise up to become public figures, find ways to hold off their reflexive raw reactions, because they understand the devastating implications of those outburst to their own professional life.

Reputation management specialists advocate that hotheads should not handle social media. Has the proximity of the devices for instant messaging taken over our impulse to give vent to the first reaction fulminates our inner selves? The pathological but symbiotic relationship we are developing with our communication devices is eliminating that precious time and space for deliberation, self-reflection and re-orientation of raw emotions. Expression of raw emotions are being glorified as authentic

The vanishing of cooler heads or better of prudence is painfully on the rise.  Prudence is, writes Douglass McManaman

”emotional well-being, we will argue, comes about through a certain structuring of the entire network of human emotions, one that results from a proper disposing of the emotions by the virtues. If we are correct, then prudence is the mother of emotional health. And if virtue is the secret to looking beautiful, then prudence is, in many ways, the mother of beautiful character. For it is prudence that determines the mean of reason in all human actions and situation.”[1]

Prudence, in other words “cooler heads” must be cultivated assiduously over a period of time. However, the gratification of immediate response facilitated and exacerbated by communication devices generates compulsiveness, which leaves no room for deliberation and self-reflection. In fact, there is a perverse expectation to respond fast and furious as a mark of strong leadership. From the pubs to corporate boardrooms to the hallowed halls of governance individuals are egged on to act fast and furious to demonstrate so called leadership. The slow vanishing of prudence (cooler heads) degrades civility, and thus society.

Social media platforms are our new sandbox where we play to teach ourselves to be civil or uncivil with each other, prudent or hot headed. Instant messaging is the manifestation where we reveal ourselves.

[1] http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/education/catholic-contributions/the-virtue-of-prudence.html


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