On reacting to reactions

Coke, if I have to listen to one more person’s opinion on the Orlando shooting I’m going to scream. It’s not that I don’t think it’s tragic. I’m upset, I think it’s awful, and I have a lot of opinions about it, too. But the way everyone on the internet feels obligated to yell about it the moment it happens, I just can’t stand it. It all feels so performative, and the genuine emotion and sadness gets drowned out by people that need to write eight paragraphs about it on Facebook or whatever. I’m sure the next stage is all the thinkpieces about how “actually everyone is reacting to this big news event THE WRONG WAY #hottake,” which, barf. I dunno if I really have a question here, just something I don’t feel like I can talk about with anybody else. That and a vague sense of guilt that I’m just being an asshole contrarian or disrespecting the victims or something by keeping quiet about the shooting.


1. You know this is what happens.

2. No one is forcing you to read shit on the internet.

3. No matter how basic, everyone’s reaction to tragedy is valid.*


*Including yours.


55 thoughts on “On reacting to reactions

  1. N says:

    I had this problem. Then I realized I “know” a lot of people on Facebook that I never interact with otherwise whose basic thought processes and behaviors I fundamentally can’t stand.

    Just like your real friends, if you occasionally disagree, you take it in stride. Hell, even if you disagree constantly but it’s productive, that’s still a valuable relationship. When you disagree on everything or it leaves you more angry and frustrated than anything else, ask yourself why you are Facebook friends.

    Delete your Facebook or thoughtfully curate your friends list. There absolutely is space between echo chamber and chaos; admit the irreconcilable differences where they exist and find that space.

    • Kittyninja says:

      Yeah, my friends are mostly posting interesting updates or their personal queer reactions. Of course, my friendslist is cultivated so I know about whatever dumb party there is to be had.

      And hey, maybe respect your friends’ genuine 8 paragraphs of grief, OP. You don’t get to define anyone’s grief save your own. Shit can be irksome while simultaneously being a real, personal response to a tragedy. My or anyone’s petty reaction doesn’t hold a flame to the next several months of grief.

  2. VeryOff says:

    Well, that’s what happens when you turn your facebook into pokemon. With a few exceptions, I have only added people whom I felt were either smarter than myself or were true friends. I’ve only had to remove two people so far.

    The rest is necessary professional linkage.

    • WhoAmI says:

      I’m the type who only have 50 friends after five years of use but worded like that ? Facebook Pokémon ? Now I wanna catchem all.

    • Kittyninja says:

      My friends are pokemanz tyvm. Though this only really describes our tendency to chirp and dress in group costumes.

  3. J Lynn says:

    It’s now been two years since I used Facebook, but unless they’ve taken it away, the “Hide” feature was really useful. You didn’t have to unfriend anybody if you didn’t want to, but you could just mute them from your feed.

    I sometimes muted people I actually liked, but who just posted too-freaking-much and drowned out everything else. Like an old co-worker who posted several picture of her dogs every day. Sure they’re cute, but it was just too much dog. Or another guy, an actual friend, who went through a spell of buying expensive stuff — new car, new house. He is a decent person and not usually a douche, but after the first congratulations, I started feeling way too sorry for myself when seeing his frequent posts about renovating the new house, because I was pretty hard up at the time. I hid these two and some others who irritated me for my own personal and perhaps petty reasons. I could still check in with them when I wanted, could still message them and receive messages, but didn’t have to exercise patience when scrolling through FB.

    That said, there’s a lot of be said for just taking a break from social media in general. The way I did it wasn’t to delete my account, but to change the password to a random jumble so I had to find the piece of paper I wrote it on before logging in. Sometimes I lost that paper and had to reset the password. This extra effort added intentionality, and after a “detox” period, I found I wasn’t that keen to check often, and now it mostly serves as an address book for people who don’t/won’t use regular email.

    • Betsy says:

      I installed an extension that hides my FB newsfeed. Best decision I have made in the last few months. Also it made me realise that a large swath of my generation are a bunch of social media-addicted, performative suckers. Although Bernie, Jeremy Corbyn (UK) and the effectiveness of protests against TTIP give me much reason for hope. Once I get a job, I’m gonna start donating to charities and media I like. Enough with this Buzzfeed, clickbait crap.

  4. J Lynn says:

    To the OP, I wonder if your preferred style of grief and sadness is more quiet, thus you believe that’s more respectful. But others’ style is more vocal, and they think they’re being respectful to the events as well. Except their expressions are interfering with your preferred mode of restraint and relative quiet. Their noise seems to interfere with your preference for quiet, so you project your personal annoyance (which you don’t want to admit to yourself as it sounds petty) and decide they’re disrespectful.

    This sometimes happens to me, and I have to admit that my desire for more quiet and decorum isn’t totally pure and holy, it also contains a wish to control other people a little. The best thing to do, in my experience, is step away from the cacophony so you can meet your own needs.

    Re “performative” — public grief has always been partially performative since the dawn of humankind or at least civilization. Think of the paid wailing women at funerals in some cultures. Even today our most sedate and WASPy funeral rituals are performative. And while this is a terrible private event for the friends and family of the deceased, it’s also unavoidably a public event because it happened in a public place, it happened en masse, and it happened by means of a crime against the state (murder). So some of the “performance” might be happening in a way that’s irritating, but it’s inherently a public event and thus follows public response in all its various forms.

    • Kittyninja says:

      My thoughts exactly. I tend to quietly grieve (while also seeking to control and bury my pain), so it’s funny to watch myself get annoyed when reading a well-written post about another’s grief.

  5. definitely not batman says:

    Yep, this is why I stay off Facebook the day of, and the day after, something like this happens. Of course, yesterday Twitter (which is usually safe due to my carefully curated timeline) fucked me over anyway when I saw that out of all the possible reactions my friend could have had, she went with getting incredibly offended because people were “shitting on prayer [as a response].” I went from sharing my grief with my fellow LGBT+ people and finding comfort in togetherness to wanting to launch my computer into the sun screaming MAYBE IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, YOU NARCISSISTIC PISS BABY

    You win some, you lose some.

    • Maria says:

      You take the words right out of my mouth in the comment section here all the time, but no more so than today. I’m quiet, even on the internet, but if this were a bar, I’d buy you a drink. Thank you for sharing this–my feelings exactly.

  6. Ada says:

    You know- I get where the OP is coming from.

    I know exactly what you’re referring to. Although it’s not up to us to decide what’s “genuine” grief and what’s not, there’s something unsettling about the current clamor on social media.

    Then again, I’m very bad at grieving. I’ve never been able to watch other people do it openly, and that’s on me.

  7. easygoingmister says:

    so glad I don’t have the facebook. BUT. I am glad many people do have it and gay is all over it right now.

      • Radio says:

        It’s just an linguistic trend. Like doge speak or typing in all lowercase or saying bae. It’s perfectly legit. Besides, it’s generally meant to be a purposefully tongue-in-cheek way to say something. Weird on purpose.

      • J Lynn says:

        I like Book Face, after that 30 Rock episode. Or Face Booger.

        I think “the Facebook” might be an ironic continuation of “the Internets” from the early 2000s +/-, which itself may have been either a W-ism or from the Simpsons, can’t remember.

          • definitely not batman says:

            Oh, it’s one of my favorites. A great film about horrible people. Written by Sorkin, so you know it’s cool and sleek and completely unaware of its douchebaggery, which is what makes it awesome imo.

  8. Becky says:

    I’m so annoyed with everyone writing long Facebook posts about this tragedy that I’m going to write a long submission to Coke about how annoyed I am with the way people are reacting to this tragedy.

  9. Anna says:

    “It all feels so performative”
    Do you go up to people lighting candles in churches and say “this is so performative” ?
    Expressions of grief are expressions of grief.
    And however superficial you find the 8 paragraphs of emotion and/or opinions of whoever you follow on the internet, you’re an idiot if you think you’re going to find a better quality of discussion in traditional media.

    Today, I quietly commemorated the 7th month mark from the Paris shootings. 130 people getting brutally murdered in my close vicinity while I slept. It may seem noisy to you now, but in a few months all there will be left of the Orlando shooting is astounding silence.

  10. Rainbowpony says:

    This is an interesting thought exercise if you compare personal versus societal level greiving (if that makes sense). If I went to an funeral and gave a long righteous speech about how this death indicated to me everything that’s wrong with the world, that would be considered exceptionally rude.

  11. Jessica Sen says:

    I wonder when the news will die down. I noticed Coquette did not say everyone’s reaction is “equally” valid.

  12. Radio says:

    I relate to this post, though my perspective has grown over time. Most of my facebook feed is of people with similar ideological perspectives as mine, so it’s usually not a matter of being frustrated with racists and homophobes and sexists. (They pop up, to be sure, but I keep them around for existential perspective, I guess.)

    For me, I can get frustrated at the futility of Facebook. Nearly every single person in my feed will be shouting about the same thing, but it’ll seem like nothing ever comes of it. Shootings still happen. Homophobia still happens. Sexism still exist. Politicians are still terrible. Racism is alive and strong. Everyone on my facebook will be making all these strong, righteous political arguments, but there’s sometimes a part of me that’s like, “who are you even talking to?? Don’t you realize your words are either going to the choir or falling on deaf ears?” I can get really cynical about the efficacy of a facebook post, but then one of my friends pointed out that it’s a matter of catharsis for many people. That made everything make more sense for me. We all process things differently.

    I feel guilt sometimes, too, though. During this and during other tragedies, I’ve seen people say that if you’re not speaking out (presumably on social media), you don’t care. I do care, but I often have trouble feeling that anything I write will matter. I can feel so trapped by all the noise swirling around me that I don’t want to add to it unless it’s just right.

    On another note, this shooting hit really close to home for me. I could’ve been there. So many of my friends could’ve been there. One of my friends literally almost was there. So I’ve been mourning and processing this one a lot.

  13. Elle says:

    I’ve been lighting candles for Christina Grimmie all day today.

    I looked at her instagram and twitter and her last few posts are so happy and bubbly and excited (but then, all of her posts were like that— she had such a bright soul) and then below are all these #RIPChristinaGrimmie comments with little broken hearted emojis and tear emojis and ‘she’s looking down on you’ and ‘she’s in a better place now’ and oh, people trying to say that at least she’ll be remembered forever, people pointing out new meaning in her cover songs, now that she’s gone.

    And it just— I just, I got so damned angry. It just, it just seemed like it’s the new hot thing of the moment, to be upset about her death and comment about it and share the gofundme for her family with more crying emojis and some of these people just seemed so fucking gauche waving grief around like a new Chanel bag that they’ll tire of in a season when I feel like there’s a hole in my heart.

    People were analyzing her smiling and her laughter, her silliness. I was over on Reddit, and someone said that her singing ‘Titanium’ was touching because in the end she’s bulletproof because we’ll always remember her. Everything she ever did is wrought through with new meaning now, except it’s not.

    There are no secret metaphors in her songs, she was just murdered. People make a scene out of being upset now, but how many of them will ‘remember her forever!’ in six months? A year? Ten? Her legacy doesn’t outweigh her life— there isn’t more meaning in her death.

    I’m an atheist and I know that there’s nothing next, no afterlife, no paradise— she’s not in a better place, she’s just gone. They’re all just gone. Every human life is so damned fragile and finite and fleeting and hers was stolen from her in an instant and everyone was trying to make it better by bringing up destiny and fate and God and heaven and her legacy.

    But Christina herself was religious and my heart ran off without me and so here I am, lighting candles and praying for her and her friends and family and talking to her even though I know she’s fucking gone, I know there’s nothing there— but for her I’ll believe; I’ll desperately, desperately believe so that on the extreme off chance there’s something up there listening, well then— one more person praying for her can’t possibly hurt.

    My long-winded, tangential and over emotional point is— everyone grieves differently. I can’t grieve for Christina or the Orlando shooting victims on social media— I just can’t do it; my grief is like drowning in deep water— I can’t grieve in tiny comments and snapshots and emojis, I can’t. Other people need that connection though; other people sometimes need to grieve together, out loud, and that’s no less valid. People make up stories that feel better than ‘they’re gone forever’ about heaven and God, and I can’t begrudge them that because I feel so much lighter when I let myself half believe that Christina and all the Orlando victims are safe and warm in a better place.

    Anyway, take it from me— other people can be confusing and strange but most of them feel the same things you do, they just express their grief differently. Please have faith in the inherent goodness of people and don’t let yourself get too cynical. Please. They’re just different from us, they’re not less.

    I have to go now— one of Christina’s candles has gone out.

  14. Elsie says:

    On FB, unfollowed most all friends. Happy and never miss a birthday. OCD friends who want to read my every post are welcome to.

    One day people will recognize my genius for inventing HermitBook; the social media platform where you weren’t allowed to have friends. 😉

  15. Morten says:

    50 people were forced to spend the last moments of their lives in total fear as they were hunted down and shot like animals, all for being gay. This wasn’t a random act of mass murder, it was targeted at gay people and motivated by homophobia. Many LGBT people, me included are devastated by this attack in one of our safe places.

    And you have the nerve to express annoyance at how some of us express our grief? The brutalisation and murder of LGBT individuals are finally getting a hot second of recognition and you are annoyed?

    How dare you. Seriously, how dare you. And Coke, I am really disappointed that the only thing you

  16. Morten says:

    50 people were forced to spend the last moments of their lives in total fear as they were hunted down and shot like animals, all for being gay. This wasn’t a random act of mass murder, it was targeted at gay people and motivated by homophobia. Many LGBT people, me included, are completely devastated by this attack in one of our safe places.

    And you have the nerve to express annoyance at how some of us express our grief? The brutalisation and murder of LGBT individuals are finally getting a hot second of recognition and you are annoyed?

    How dare you. Seriously, how dare you. And Coke, I am really disappointed that the only thing you have had to say about this is two backhanded comments on Twitter directed at America in general, as well as indulging this asshole who wants to scream at the unmitigated gall we have for not mourning the most devastating attack on the LGBT community since holocaust quietly.

    Coke, you have a huge gay following. They look to you for words of comfort now. This attack is an attack on LGBT lives and needs to be adressed specifically, not generally or glossed over.

    EDIT: Double post, my bad.

    • Shannon says:

      Your presumption that OP is only upset because she doesn’t want to hear it or something is a willful misunderstanding of the point. We all know people who don’t give a shit about gay rights every other day of the year who feel the need to make themselves look good by loudly professing their sadness over this, and I know more than a few gay individuals who, like OP, find it beyond disrespectful. As Coke said, your personal reaction to tragedy is not the only valid one.

      • Hello says:

        That’s interesting of you to say because I have literally seen an amount of straight people I can count on one hand talking about this and I am stupidly glad/proud every time I do. I wish more of them would.

        • Morten says:

          I agree, not a whole lot of straight people on my friend list have been talking about this either, but the few that have has made me feel so happy.

    • Hello says:

      This. As someone gay, news of the Orlando shooting is genuinely some of the worst I’ve ever had. I have never shed so much as a tear at the news before but I cried so hard for so long I had a headache the rest of the day, and I can feel the event has changed me. I’m so much more scared. So devastated. So everything.

  17. VeryOff says:

    I would like to point out that not everyone’s reaction to tragedy is appropriate. Donald Trump congratulating himself would be the most prominent example. Governor of Texas tweeting about reaping what you sow would be another. So I think we need to draw a line between a reactive action and a reaction…or some other semantic clarification.

    • R says:

      Valid ≠ appropriate ≠ acceptable.

      Also, might it be that the people you mentioned were not reacting to tragedy? If you’re daft enough to say that those who died at Pulse deserved it (reap what you sow), you probably aren’t reacting to a tragedy. More like a congruity.

    • J Lynn says:

      Maybe the distinction is that, in their comments, those two vain, heartless, arrogant monsters weren’t grieving at all, they were fucking gloating.

  18. wrkrb says:

    I have very little exposure to media as a result of quitting social media several years ago, not subscribing to cable, and having lost general interest in major outlets because they brought me problems that I couldn’t fix, fears that I didn’t need, and frustration that I didn’t want. Coquette often exposes me to events that I would be otherwise unaware of. My partner is an avid news follower and we spoke about the shooting in the morning when she read an article about it. Her reaction was to question how no one managed(attempted?) to overpower the shooter. I don’t think we’re currently socialized to respond that way but do think it would be of public benefit for more of us to react to these crises by running toward the crazy violent people rather than away from them.

    • J Lynn says:

      If you’re looking for a physical reason, look at high capacity magazines plus machine gun. If he’d only had a revolver or even an automatic handgun (with cartridges) there’s no way he could have hit 100 people before either fleeing, being tackled, being shot by someone else, or simply killing himself with the 6th and final bullet. People would still have died but a lot fewer. If he’d only had a knife, fewer still, and maybe just injuries.

      I also read that someone on the scene did shoot at him, but either missed or failed to incapacitate. In a crowd it would be very, very hard to get a clean shot at the attacker, even for a skilled police officer. It’s not really an improvement to have scattered armed civilians in a crowd firing from all directions.

      • wrkrb says:

        Thank you for clarifying the dynamic. I could have read more about the event but I know so little about guns that I might not have interpreted how severely the weapon impacted the ability to gain the upper hand. I would love to take a citizen defense class that advised me on how to respond in these situations. I agree that there should be a ban on assault weapons but cynically don’t think that will remove them as a threat due to the number already owned and the everavailability of a black market for things we’re not supposed to have. It’s just that as a late 20s person I feel that mass shootings have been a regular parts of the news cycle for most of my life and it’s such a problem that I have to hope we can mitigate it. Like all of the too large problems I want to find a piece of it that I can understand and control.

  19. wrkrb says:

    That’s why I said that we’re not socialized to respond that way. I don’t blame the victims at all. But it would still be great if we could start disarming the crazy violent people when they try to kill a bunch of us.

    • J Lynn says:

      As above, an extremely heroic AND extremely lucky person (or group) could maybe, MAYBE disarm an attacker who is wielding a handgun. Maybe. But there’s really no “disarming” someone who’s firing a machine gun with large magazines. They either have to stop shooting on their own, or you have to kill or seriously wound them. That’s why we had, and should have again, an assault weapons ban or at least much, much stricter access. (That wouldn’t be enough of course, but it should be a common sense beginning.)

  20. OP, 7 years later says:

    I’m the person that originally wrote in with this question back in the day, felt like revisiting it now.

    I guess this question was about the general Hot Take Industrial Complex of the internet, which really felt like it was kicking into high gear from 2015-16, and was starting to make me feel like I was losing my mind. I was having a lot of mental health issues around this time that didn’t help.

    I didn’t mention in my question that I’m a gay man, which is why all the internet yelling surrounding the Pulse shooting particularly got to me. I was so upset and angry and scared and I felt like all anyone was actually doing anything about it was Posting and I couldn’t actually talk to anyone about how I was feeling.

    I didn’t want to mention being gay in my question, since it was more about internet culture than identity stuff, but of course the comment section ran with the idea that I was dismissing the tragedy that they seemed to take pleasure in describing in great detail, or whatever. Pretty much exactly the kind of shit I was angry about, but that’s the internet.

    I’m glad that at least Coke cut through my wordiness and understood what my question was about. I appreciated her validating my poorly-expressed feelings, even in a small way here. I deleted my Facebook pretty shortly after this, which helped a lot. Deleted a lot of other social media in recent years, too, and notifications off on the stuff I couldn’t delete. I barely use it anymore, especially compared to my friends, and I mostly do it anonymously when I do. That’s helped my mental health, even as the world continues to feel like it’s getting worse.

    I miss Coke sometimes, but I don’t go through her posts religiously like I used to. Now that I’m almost a decade older, I see the ways she talked a big game but was just as much of a regular-ass person as the rest of us. Hope she’s doing well, though.

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