As a general rule, I don’t like overreaction. Whether it is in response to a seemingly terse email or the potential outbreak of a life-threatening disease, at the very least it can lead to emotional turmoil.

At most the consequences to overreacting can be tragic. And it is almost always counterproductive.

Let’s start with emailing. How often do you ask yourself, “What did he mean by that?” or “Why would she ‘talk’ to me that way?” Perhaps there is a hidden meaning to a simple email, but more likely it is just a quick form of communication, and emotionless communication at that.

You shouldn’t have to end each sentence with an exclamation point in an effort to keep an email lighthearted. Or embed a smiley-face emoticon somewhere in the message so as not to hurt someone’s feelings. If you think the emailer has an unresolved problem with you, here’s a suggestion: Call them and ask about it.

The news about the deadly Ebola virus, also known by the scarier name Ebola hemorrhagic fever, is more serious. However, based on the overreaction by the general public and most of the media, civilization is this close to turning “The Walking Dead” into a reality show.

What we need when news like this happens is the truth. The odds are infinitesimal that you will catch the Ebola virus. Less panic means more rational thinking, which leads to faster solutions.

I purposely didn’t blame the officials from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for overreacting, by the way, because they actually did the opposite at first. They underreacted, then followed up by lying about it. I don’t like that, either. To their credit, they now appear to be taking the matter seriously.

I think the main reason I don’t like overreacting is it flies in the face of what I think is a moral imperative: A person is innocent until proven guilty. That legal presumption has been widely embraced since the days of the Roman Empire. The Magna Carta espoused the same principle. And until recently, so did the United States.

Unfortunately, our society believes you are guilty until proven innocent. People like to point fingers first and ask questions later.

The ability to voice your opinion via the Internet has given everyone the opportunity to make themselves heard, while 24/7 news coverage has enabled them. I think the result is often gibberish.

When a white police officer shot and killed an allegedly unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., earlier this year, the race card reared its ugly head before anyone knew what had really happened. “We want justice,” said the teen’s supporters. “Michael Brown was a saint.” Of course, by justice, they wanted the officer convicted and imprisoned, maybe even killed.

Is the officer guilty? Maybe. But it’s not the job of the uniformed to judge him and mete out his sentence. That’s the job of fact gatherers such as the police (who, if what I read was accurate, regrettably did not handle the investigation properly) and the justice system. Otherwise, public hangings would increase exponentially.

There already have been injuries due to clashes between protesters and the police. That is what can happen when people overreact and incite riots.

You might have noticed I didn’t mention the officer by name. Guilty or innocent, his life is ruined because too many ignorant people believe he is already guilty. He will be treated as a pariah, at least in his hometown, for the rest of his life, and I am not going to add to his misery if he is innocent.

That doesn’t mean a judge or jury is responsible for determining guilt or innocence in all cases. Ray Rice found that out the hard way. The former Baltimore Ravens running back had allegedly punched his then fiancée in an elevator and knocked her cold. The media was all over the story, and I thought many reporters were out of line calling for his dismissal from the National Football League before the facts became clear.

When a video of Rice clearly punching her surfaced, I changed my mind. Big Brother is not the only one watching.

As a society, we are supposed to be equal, if not in wealth, then in worth and dignity. Too many people today are narcissistic, however. They believe what they say counts more than what other people think, whether they know what’s going on or not. When they overreact, bad things can happen, and sometimes the innocent are punished.

Keep all this in mind when one of your employees is blamed for making a mistake or stealing. Make sure of the facts before you make a decision you might regret.

Then again, maybe resistance is futile, and we are experiencing the end of the world as we know it. Hopefully, I am overreacting.   ■

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.

For more of Bob Ulrich's editorials, see:

Price fixation

Ties that bind

When China and friends tool over

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