Every action has an equal and opposite reaction…

yet some people don’t seem to understand this physical law.

It applies to social and technological movements.

The people like Elon Musk who are admired and hated equally find themselves in that position due to this. The bigger the change we are trying to make in society, the bigger the resistance to it will be.

Why is this true?

Well consider that even though we may understand better technology will come in the future, most people hope it won’t impact them too much. If you’re the guy making internal combustion engines, then the guy making electric vehicles popular is impacting your job security. Sure, it may lead to a better thing for society in terms of getting further for cheaper, and long-term better for the environment, but today it’s affected where that person’s meal is coming from. Of course the argument is always “It will create new jobs,” which is true, but there is no guarantee those new jobs are in the same geography as the current one. That person may have to move away from their family, pull their child away from friends, and make some big life choices because of the changes the technology are making.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do these things. However, we need to recognize that there are impacts to people’s lives too. Of course, those same impacts exists for not doing them when societal problems are going to worsen as the result of other influences. For example, gas is a scarce resource. We’re using it fast, which means on the supply vs. demand curve we’ll quickly see demand exceed supply and prices continue to rise drastically over time. Driving could become the realm of only the rich with the passing of enough decades.

Electric vehicles balance this better because we can build solar power to charge vehicles.

I’m not sure why I’ve even picked electric vehicles here because this post is about the action/reaction that exists everywhere. Frankly, this is a response to people that I see posting highly critical or controversial things on social media who are then quite shocked at the resistance that they get to their thoughts.

My theory is that this stems from the fact that in time before social media, we often shared ideas and thoughts in our tight personal circles. The thing is, doing that doesn’t create any action. You didn’t accelerate society forward, nor resist its changes. Those personal circles already agreed with us from our shared experiences. Since there was actually no “action” in those cases, there also wasn’t a reaction. That’s the behavior most people are used to.

Now, that’s changed.

We’re posting things to a wide group on social media, trying to have more influence then we had before. We have leverage which creates more force, and subsequent action, but that force comes with an equal and opposite reaction. The people who have been leaders for most of society have always understood this. They were leaders because they were willing to take the heat. To be grilled on TV. To speak in front of upset crowds. The average person never had to deal with this kind of scrutiny, nor is the average person up for the task of that level of scrutiny. Yet, there sit the tools to create a change, dangled in front of us, and as everyone who has ever been in any sort of group knows, everyone thinks they have the answers, and they are willing to share. Now that sharing reaches a huge amount of people who have different conclusions and that creates the tension.

I’m not sure there is anything to be done about it except recognize it and decide if what you have to say is worth the reaction. If it is, say it, if not, find something more worthy to spend your energy on.