If you’ve spent any time whatsoever online over the past couple of years, you’ve probably come across someone dishing out their “hot take” on a given topic. Whether it be a tweetstorm, a selfie video rant, a screenshot from the Notes app, or a Facebook post so long that you have to hit the “Read More” button twice, these hot takes are everywhere. And boy are they hot.
For those who don’t know, a hot take is basically just an individual’s gut reaction to something. Raw, unfiltered, and often uncensored. These takes—or perspectives, if you rather—are hot because they’re both fiery and fresh. Without much consideration or planning, people simply throw their two cents’ worth out onto the internet, emotions and all.
This has always been part of the appeal of social media, right? Everyone gets a voice. If you have something to say, you can say it, and no one can stop you. But I‘ve noticed that practices like spilling tea (sharing the latest gossip) and dishing hot takes have become more prominent online as of late, even going viral, and it makes me wonder why.
I think that as our society has become more divided, it’s pushed us to highlight and value more and more extreme views and reactions. We want the content we take in to match the levels of outrage and discomfort that we ourselves feel. So even if we aren’t bold enough to share our own hot takes, we’re more than willing to seek out and share those that align with our views. We’ve all done it at some point.
Hot takes are also just more entertaining. Thoughtfulness and data aren’t as much fun as bold declarations and drama. People like to know what others think without filters or masks. So of course we’re going to tend towards the things that most catch our attention; that’s human nature.
But I wonder if dishing and taking in such hot takes all of the time is really good for us. Sure, they’re fun, and it feels good to know that there are people out there who have the same gut feelings that we do. But is that really what we need to hear all of the time?
We all react to situations with our emotions first. But then we go through the process of considering and filtering those emotions before forming a real opinion and speaking out. The truth is that decent people don’t fully agree with our their unfiltered gut reactions most of the time, and that’s why it’s usually best to take a breath before we speak.
Sharing and praising these hot takes can encourage people to skip the process of consideration altogether and go straight to speaking out. And once their opinion is out, they have to choose one of two options once they’ve calmed down: They can apologize and take back what they said, admitting that it came from an emotional place rather than a rational one; or they can double down on it, claiming that it really is how they feel. Often, they choose the latter.
And this doubling down on our most emotional of reactions leads to the normalization of what were once thought to be radical, even unacceptable, ideas. We become desensitized to just how harmful and irrational these ways of thinking can be because everyone seems to be doing it. It’s the new standard. So what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that when we’re relying on our emotions to process information, we aren’t being our best selves. We don’t make the best decisions. We approach the world from a place of fear rather than a place of compassion, and we think only of our own self-preservation. And that’s simply no way to live.
If we’re going to do our part to make the world a better place for everyone, we have to be willing to move past the easy hot takes and do the hard work of looking at the world from multiple angles, including those of people we disagree with. We can’t get sucked into bubbles and echo chambers, nor can we be content with simply shouting our views at the “other side” and refusing to listen to what anyone else has to say. That’s hot take culture, and it won’t get us anywhere.
Consideration. Processing. Listening. Caring. These are skills that help us move past the hot takes and into a place where we really can enact change. And I hope that these are skills we can all work on ourselves and share with others so that we can change the tide of the conversation around us.
One place you won’t find many hot takes is right here on this blog. I like to joke that I dish out “cold takes” here because my posts are deeply considered over a good bit of time. Rarely do I comment directly on current events in this space because I don’t think that’s the best way to use this platform for the greater good. So if you’re into hot takes, I’m sorry, but that’s not really what I’m about here.
That’s not to say that hot takes are completely devoid of value. There is certainly something to be said for having passion and commitment to one’s beliefs. But I think the real change-makers are those who can channel that passion into rational, actionable plans and communicate those plans intelligently to like-minded people. Yelling on the internet never changed anything for the better, but that same passion can be put to good use if one chooses to do so.
I’d even go so far as to say that there is room for righteous anger in the face of true sin and evil. Sometimes, we are morally compelled to speak out. But I think that clear-cut situations like those are fewer and further between than most people people’s hot takes. And I’m hesitant to ever say that my reactions to any given situation are true, pure righteous anger because I’m not perfect, and my emotions are usually selfish, not concerned with the welling of others. I’d venture to say that’s true of most people.
For the most part, I’d say it’s best to leave the hot takes behind us. We’re better, more compassionate people than our emotions alone allow us to be. So let’s practice compassion and consideration before we speak. When we do, I think we’ll find that our well thought-out words and deeds will actually have a far greater impact than our hot takes ever could.