I’ve attempted to write this (crucial to me) pseudo-essay about five times or so now, and I keep thinking that with each new start it will be another false start that will get scrapped again until I either scrap the whole planned series altogether or craft a Frankenstein of a piece into existence. But I’m going to opt to not take my ball and go home and instead lob that ball as hard as I can against the wall (I think in this metaphor, I might be playing handball or wall ball, a popular before school game I played back in my childhood). To kick of this series, I’m going to write about internet opinions and the Hot Take.
To me, it is overused and abused. I don’t think I can write about this academically, diplomatically, or objectively. I have a deeply rooted disdain for Hot Takes in general and the likelihood that I have agreed with any has been as rare as Trump doing something actually resembling presidentially (or otherwise) dignified. Yes, I’ll take as many swipes at Trump as I want because fuck that guy.
In all the time I’ve been on the internet, I’ve seen plenty of deliveries and variations on the Hot Take or expressions of volatile opinions in general. They’re not always meant to be read with hostility, but that’s how some of them are taken and to be offended on the internet is as basic as a basic bitch. Yes, I don’t like that term either, but it is an internet phrase and I’m using it purely as an example of the mutations language has undergone on the internet. A beckoning of the evolution of semantics. Or something like that. What was I talking about? Oh, right. Hot Snakes.
No, wait. Hot Takes.
The Hot Take is an attempt to disrupt the conversation around a topic, often by positing a contradictory opinion that challenges the topic’s bona fides. At best, it brings awareness to an often overlooked aspect surrounding the topic; at worst, it is pointless attention-seeking on the part of the person delivering said Hot Take.
It’s meant to be a truth bomb lobbed towards a massive groupthink, in effort to startle them but also blow away their conventional thoughts regarding a topic. You fracture the shell, it makes it easier to stab at the soft vulnerable flesh beneath it. Honestly, it is a great achievement of the internet age as a means of instigating stimulating and engaging discussions, but for me the preface of “Hot Take” is a signifier that I can disregard your opinion and move on to the next shitpost.
Hot Take: I do not care about your hot takes.
Opinions circle and swirl within the coded ether of the internet at such rapid pulsing speeds that it renders a person dizzy and nauseous and I want to get off the tea cups ride, thank you very much, why did I ever get on it in the first place? And I can freely admit that I am someone who voices their opinions to a sickening degree as well and I know that my opinions are as valid as anyone else’s, full of the same weight and merit that one can ascribe opinions on the internet. And opinions are just a microcosm of the internet at large. Of course, if I left it there, then my argument would be over and this piece would have been all for naught. I can’t allow that to be the case, right?
So, the Hot Take. Why does it offend me? It probably has to do with what it implies. In context, when you frame your argument or opinion using “Hot Take,” you’re implying that what you are about to say is something possibly dynamic; it is going to shatter everyone’s opinion(s) and perhaps their minds. Your post is revelatory. That what you thought (which is perhaps a commonly held belief) is all a lie or maybe incorrect in some degree and here’s the reason(s) why. I’m not opposed to that.
It’s the need to squeeze in the “Hot Take” right before all of that is laid out. Those two little words are what infuriates me because whatever you’re posting wouldn’t bother me or cause me to cringe otherwise. Who knew a two-word phrase could cause me so much pain other than “President Trump?”
It’s a signal that what you are about to say is possibly so radical and thought-provoking that everyone else needs to prepare themselves accordingly, such as by holding firm their monocles. To me, it feels like a cheap tactic to garner heat. So, in wrestling parlance, it’s cheap heat, like when the heel insults the city the show is in that night. “I woke up with a smile on my face until I remembered that I was in Cleveland” and then the crowd boos but they have to admit that while their pride was insulted, they still live in Cleveland.
Part of me feels like the Hot Take can be a valid means of initiating an argument in favor or against something that needs to be discussed, but the other part of me sees it as a lazy means of lobbing out an idea and leaving it to hang slightly askew on a nail on the wall of the internet. Is it pushing a strong thought? Likely not, mostly just someone wanting to say something about something and make it look more important than it actually is. You could’ve said what you said all along, the Hot Take wasn’t ever necessary to promote your thought.
I can’t stop people from making Hot Takes. It would be impossible no matter how much power I wield. It’s also ridiculous for me to think that saying “cool it on the Hot Takes, or any Takes in general” is going to result in decreased Takes. That’s abstinence-only logic and it never works. And I don’t want this to feel like I’m intrinsically negating opinions because of the use of the Hot Take. I mean, maybe I am but I’m trying to break two bad habits at the same time by confronting my disdain for the Hot Take while emphasizing my support for an increase in dialogue on various subjects on the internet. Just hopefully free from the scourge of the Hot Take.
I’d rather encourage self-regulation and examination so that going forward, everyone is able to practice safe Hot Takes and reduce the spread of STIs (Self-indulgent Takes, Ishmael – it’s a work in progress).
Just a few suggestions to keep in mind the next time you want to use the “Hot Take” preface:
- Is the opinion I’m about to share widely known? Am I really the first person to think this?
- Is it from a perspective that hasn’t been considered or is it just contrarian?
- What is the temperature?
- Am I really saying anything worthwhile or just expressing a deeply personal opinion, something shaped by my experiences and perspective?
- Does it actually challenge the status quo, the established opinion on a topic? Are there even any strong opinions on this topic?
- Does my opinion on the topic read less as a fresh take than good advice?
- Is it really even a take? Is it just a shitpost?
- Are these even pants that I’m wearing?
If you’re able to follow those eight simple rules or even come up with practical ones of your own, then you should be able to better deliver Hot Takes with the efficiency and acumen of the greatest of thinkers and all internet debates henceforth will be civil in tone and free of snark and/or animosity and we’ll all live in floating castles with thermostats always set at the most optimal temperature for all inhabitants, and the otters and kitties will be plentiful and pizzas will have the appropriate toppings that please all!
Afterthoughts (Things I couldn’t force into the original post)
- In general, I find opinions to be overrated, especially on the internet. None of them are original and are mostly crowd-sourced.
- Attacking a popular thing because it is popular and you can’t understand why it is so popular is a bad opinion, pal. Maybe recognize that not everything is for everyone and be content as well as confidant that you don’t have to like something and allow people to like that thing.
- It doesn’t make sense when someone expresses their fondness for something that someone will reply with their opinion that they don’t like that thing and don’t get why people like it. Why does it bother you that much and was it even really necessary for you to say anything at all?
- Not that you shouldn’t be allowed to express a negative opinion about something. Just use caution and read the room. Don’t be explicitly antagonizing about it, either.