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Note to tweeting #Romney, #Obama campaigns and #journalists: Chill

Believing that faster is better, journalists and political figures feel constant pressure to express themselves at the speed of a tweet. The resulting commentary is long on reflex and short on reflection, and harms public discourse. There's an answer: Slow down.

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Protesters confront tear gas along a road which leads to the US embassy in Cairo Sept.13. Op-ed contributor John J. Pitney Jr. writes: 'A shrill feedback cycle is at work: Hasty reactions to hasty reactions to hasty reactions. Without clearance from the State Department, a diplomat in Egypt rushes to tweet about an anti-Islam YouTube video. The Romney campaign rushes to attack the tweet. The Obama campaign rushes to criticize the Romney attack. Journalists rush to weigh the political consequences of the campaign exchange.'

Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

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Smartphones and iPads, Twitter and Tumblr – such things have vastly increased the speed and reach of communications. Almost as soon a thought enters your mind, you can send it everywhere.

That ability can be hugely beneficial – but also harmful, particularly in politics.

Twitter-like thinking – the kind that relies on quick intuition and impulse – can work well when we’re playing sports, for instance. Athletes develop a sense of when they can score a goal or steal third base without doing cost-benefit analyses.

Public life is different. Impulse reacting draws on stereotypes and mental shortcuts that can mislead us when we apply them to political questions. It is better to engage a more deliberative and reasoned approach, thinking things through and seeking additional information.

For instance, picture Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announcing another effort to inject money into the economy. Reasoned thinking may tell us to study the effects of previous efforts. Twitter-think may tell us automatically to accept or reject whatever the Fed chairman says, whatever the quality of his argument. Or it may just tell us never to trust a guy with a beard.

Despite its obvious defects, impulse thinking often prevails in the new world of instant communications. Believing that faster is better, journalists and political figures feel constant pressure to express themselves on anything and everything at the speed of a mouse click. The resulting commentary is long on reflex and short on reflection.

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