Paul Cowan
Apr 26, 2021 ⋅ 9 min read

Understanding common frustrations with React Hooks

Paul Cowan Contract software developer.

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90 Replies to "Understanding common frustrations with React Hooks"

  1. Firstly, thanks for the article, it’s contentful as always.

    But let me try to give a different perspective because hooks design is dear to my heart.

    The main problem I see with this usage of useFetch is that you seem to perceive hook as a service. But there is a profound difference between those.

    Be it ordinary or custom, – hook is still an extension of your component behavior. Or at least it’s supposed to be one. You are literally “hooking” into your component lifecycle stages via the hooks abstraction. So you don’t control the hook end to end all the time. Every hook has mount and update phases aligning with the natural component lifecycles. So it’s all reactionary.

    Services, on the other hand, are entirely controllable. You initiate the service, and you get the result any time you want. That’s why calling a hook from an event callback to me seems unnatural and breaks uniflow. Because you cannot control the component lifecycle directly. You cannot start a useEffect on demand. The same way you cannot call componentDidMount directly from an event callback. You need to initiate something that will cause the component to change its state and trigger effect callbacks eventually.

    So in this sense, hooks are perfectly aligned with the general component unidirectional flow that existed before hooks.

    Now about the shallow comparison of config.

    You should treat config object the same way regardless of whether it’s a hook or not.
    Let’s you don’t have hooks how would you go about reasoning about this useFetch in a pre hook setup

    I guess it could’ve been something like this

    import React from “react”;
    import ReactDOM from “react-dom”;

    import “./styles.css”;

    const axios = ({ url }) =>
    data: [
    { id: 1, url },
    { id: 2, url },
    { id: 3, url },
    { id: 4, url },
    { id: 5, url }

    class UseFetchComponent extends React.PureComponent {
    state = {
    data: null

    handleFetch() {
    const { url, skip, take } = this.props.config;
    const resource = `${url}?$skip=${skip}&take=${take}`;
    axios({ url: resource }).then(response =>
    this.setState({ data: response.data })

    componentDidMount() {

    componentDidUpdate(prevProps) {
    if (prevProps.config !== this.props.config) {

    render() {
    const { data } = this.state;

    if (data) {
    return data.map(d => {JSON.stringify(d)});

    return null;

    class App extends React.Component {
    state = {
    config: { url: “test”, skip: 20, take: 10 }

    handleSetRandomConfig = () => {
    this.setState(prevState => ({
    config: {
    skip: (Math.random() * 100) | 0,
    take: (Math.random() * 100) | 0

    render() {
    return (

    Set random config


    const rootElement = document.getElementById(“root”);
    ReactDOM.render(, rootElement);

    In which case config is stored in some outer state and updated immutably, every time the prop changes, the object identity changes, thus you can rely on reference checks. To me this is good practice, and it sets you up on the path to the pit of success.

    Let me know if this has been helpful.

  2. I agree, the reason ostensibly was because `this` issues are hard to understand for noobs and a frequent question on SO. However understanding `this` is really not that hard and as long as you use arrow methods for events and nested function callback you will rarely run into problems.

    So they traded this issue for hugely increasing their API surface area and adding some really none trivial concepts like stale data/mem leaks in closures if depedencies aren’t listed. Sub optimal rendering through all functions being created and breaking any pure checks by default. Infinite loops if your hooks both reads and writes to a state value, since you depend on it but you also update it. Added complexity when using things like debounce. And scaling issues since you cannot break down a component as hooks cannot appear out of order as you mentioned.

    The benefit I see is that hooks are cleaner looking than multiple wrapping HOCs, but I don’t think the trade offs were worth it.

  3. I am curious if you have tried pushing side-effects out to a redux middleware library (and keeping the state in a redux store), and if so, how that compares to some of these effects/api calls in react hooks? I cannot say that I am huge fan of react hooks beyond updating trivial local state, though I have not had much experience with them.

    1. I’ve done a lot of redux and I think this is partly why hooks exist. Things like loading and error states should not be in the global state but end up there in redux. Hooks definitely are an answer to this.

  4. The problem is that we’re essentially writing what ought to be pure functions, a la A => B, and attempting to add to them effectful behavior, without changing their type. In reality, once we had effectful behavior to a component their type is more like A => F[B]. This is the reality we should work with. If we have multiple effects, the type is still A => F[F[B]]. Thankfully, if we do things right, we should be able to compose effects! I agree with you, Paul. To me, React’s hook system feels like kludgy.

  5. I seems most of your concerns can be solved by destructuring props and using the properties in your dependency array.

    The dependency array is a declarative representation of what causes the effect to run. So this includes mount and any changes after… simply use “useState” and “useEffect” as intended in concert with destructured properties and the dependency array and you can easily run effect when and as desired.


  6. I skirt around the problem of stale state by setting a ref at the top of the function that contains whatever the props are that render. Since ref references don’t change from render to render, referencing the ref-contained props inside my useEffect or useCallback always returns the most up to date props. That also means that the dependency arrays for these functions are always empty, the functions only ever created once, which prevents additional unnecessary rerendering of children due to changed function references. The only requirement is that the functions I use inside useEffect and friends have to use props through the ref reference.

    Effectively, I created a managed “this” variable.

  7. Few other options:
    1. use different hook: say Apollo provides both `useQuery` that executes immediately and `useLazyQuery` that will return “runner” inside array result. So you will be able to initiate request later(probably someone already created lazy version of useFetch).
    2. move fetching into separate component. Not sure it looks fine but Apollo provided “ and “ component to use them like `{someFlag && <Mutation …` and people used them that way.

  8. maybe a beginner here but i dont understand why for this usefetch example
    we cant memoize the data using usecallback / usememo and then change the state (current pagination) accordingly.
    then we would fetch only if needed?

  9. It’s funny how you had the right code all along, just didn’t used it.

    The key is “setCurrentPage”.

    setCurrentPage({ skip: 10 * n, take: 10 })}>

    Nice and simple, everything works with no complicated “solutions” (sorry, I couldn’t follow the overly complicated solutions that followed).

  10. Here is a codesandbox with the incredibly easy and elegant solution:


    Hooks take a bit of getting used to.
    In the beginning I thought they complicate the code unnecessarily.
    Until I realized they can just be extracted into custom hooks.
    The real power of hooks, besides the fact they are declarative, is composition and by means of composition they can be abstracted away as custom hooks.
    React is all about declarative UI composition but lacked the “primitive” for having stateful logic composition in an elegant and declarative way. Until hooks.

  11. I have been using React for more than four years and I’m considering switching to something else because of Hooks. At first I thought I would just not use them, but everyone in the React ecosystem seems to be adopting them.
    Hooks are so wrong! I do not even want to spend time and energy to to argue against them.
    So long React!

  12. > I have been using React for more than four years and I’m considering switching to something else because of Hooks.

    I’m in the same boat. I spent 2 days this week trying to get on board with them.

    The re-usability they provide is super attractive, but the comprehension when reading the code, and the pitfalls are a huge turn off. Having to use closures and `useCallback` to avoid redefining event handlers on every render looks awful.

    I also have no interest in switching to `useReducer` and making magic string, switch statements everywhere. I’ve avoided Redux for the last 4 years over that as well.

    I feel like I’ve invested 4 years of my time in the wrong technology and I’m ready to find the next thing.

    Between the original mixins debacle and moving to classes, and now this; I don’t trust the React maintainers to give me a solid technology to build a project that will last more than 2 years.

    1. This is my problem with Hooks too. When I first started using React, I used class components, then I switched to hooks because my code at the time seemed to need them, and I read that “hooks are awesome!” over and over again. But when it came time to hook up my React code to REST calls, then I learned that Hooks result in unintuitive, magical looking code (useEffect), and I’m now in the process of switching my codebase back to class components. They’re more verbose yes, but they’re much easier to read.

      So I guess for me the real question is, why hooks? Or more importantly, why is the extra cognitive load on the developer to figure out what hooks are doing worth it–what goodness do hooks bring over classes beyond simply a “cool factor”? I’m not saying they aren’t worth it, just that it hasn’t been made clear to me yet, and so I’m switching back, as I’m afraid Hooks are going to make my code harder to understand and maintain. At the end of the day, maintainability is really important.

  13. > what magic string do you mean?

    On the `useReducer` example:

    I don’t want to pass around `increment` and `decrement` strings, and build switch statements to handle them.

    Typescript can help eliminate the magic string issue, but still not a fan of switch statements. Would rather have concrete functions in a “store” to call.

    const initialState = {count: 0};

    function reducer(state, action) {
    switch (action.type) {
    case ‘increment’:
    return {count: state.count + 1};
    case ‘decrement’:
    return {count: state.count – 1};
    throw new Error();

    function Counter() {
    const [state, dispatch] = useReducer(reducer, initialState);
    return (

    Count: {state.count}
    dispatch({type: ‘increment’})}>+
    dispatch({type: ‘decrement’})}>-


  14. Actually, the same as with “regular redux” you may use constants for Action Type. This demo sample just concentrates on different things.

  15. > Actually, the same as with “regular redux” you may use constants for Action Type. This demo sample just concentrates on different things.

    Right, but that’s a bunch of boilerplate I don’t want to write.

    I use Mobx so I can call actual functions on a class instead of passing strings/constants to giant switch statements.

  16. Some of the negative comments after Sept. 17th didn’t pay attention to Ciprian’s post and fantastic example on CodeSandbox. This article massively over-complicated things due to a lack of understanding over how to use custom hooks with “stateful composition”.

    Software development is evolving to functional programming (with composition in mind) for great reasons. It’s always hard to adjust because experienced programmers have a hard time with deviating from the familiar. This is just another paradigm shift, not unlike moving from sync-to-async, multi-threaded to single-threaded, CPS to promises, globals to modules, etc. But after adapting you’ll find a new comfort level and be glad you did.

    1. I honestly have no idea how you can call this functional as Brian Pierce is saying, these functional components are about as impure as you can get and referential transparency is not maintained. This is a paradigm shift but it is a paradigm shift to something that exists nowhere else on the landscape and has a number of quirks and gotchas that trick a lot of people out.

    2. modules made code way easier to understand and write…async/await made it way easier to read/write rest calls… none of these things are as confusing and unnecessary as hooks.

  17. @Ciprian The code you posted seems to solve the very problem I posted about earlier today: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/58105791/best-practice-for-handling-consecutive-identical-usefetch-calls-with-react-hooks

    It seems that pressing any one button repeatedly causes the [Fake] API Endpoint to be called repeatedly because your call of `setCurrentPage` is passing in an object, which is recreated each time. I’m hoping that is the key to unblock the fact that my `url` dependency isn’t allowing `useEffect` to be called with the same URL over & over.

  18. Ugh, sometimes it’s crap like this that makes me want to leave software development all-together. I had started with Angular, tried Vue, (like it, but no one around here uses it & I need to pay the bills) settled on React. Tried Redux, *hated* it thoroughly, found MobX and all was good… And then Hooks came along. I use a mixture of class components and functional ones, but now more libraries and examples are going gang-busters for Hooks, so finding resources for integrating new libraries, or even MobX examples etc. are polluted with a feature I cannot implement consistently throughout my project. I mean from what I can take away from Hooks, what the hell is the point of props anymore?? props & local state in class components “made sense”, HOCs were an inconvenience but simple to understand… Now with hooks you’re expected to write stateless components that “access” state but need to dance around closures and once you embrace that silver hammer, who needs props?

  19. A small problem with your solution:

    Given: on page 1
    When: I click button (1)
    Then: Page re-fetches

    I agree with you though, no need for complexity. In fact the solution is a combination of this and simply diffing only what is needed.

    To fix your code sandbox, replace [config] with [config.skip, config.take]

  20. We must think of reasons why they introduced hooks. One reason they said was “this” was confusing for beginners, come on, the number of gotchas that can be in hooks (my judgement is based on few days just reading about hooks) is nothing compared to “this”. Ok, they maybe looking nicer than HOCS, but was it worth it? I am not sure.

  21. @Bob1234: I’ve felt your frustration! For two months I was completely confused by this new way of being software. Through trial & error, lots of reading, and lots of help from others online, things eventually made sense. I’m not at liberty right now to share my employer’s code but let me try to help regardless.

    Working with React Hooks and Functional Components is all about “indirection”. More precisely, when you want to do something, rather than call it directly, instead you change a property value – in either the local state or in a connected Context – and then a useEffect Hook, which has this property as a dependency, is fired when the value changes. So, for example, say the user enters a value into an input element and presses Submit to check whether this value (ex. company name, e-mail address, user name, etc.) exists in the DB. Rather than making the async call from the Submit button’s event handler, instead you set a property value, which is monitored by a useEffect Hook, which in turn runs code within the useEffect construct. This code makes the call to the endpoint and waits for a response. When the response is returned, it populates the response data (often just a portion of it) into a different local state or Context property. Setting this second property then in turn often causes one or more React components (or functions therein) to be called. They use the new data to change some aspect of what the user sees on the page.

  22. I appreciate the attempt to clarify, but being confused for 2 months is a big reason my interest in React Hooks has hit ZERO.

    Indirection is also unappealing.

    I think Hooks is a HUGE mistake, and for the most part will be avoiding using them.

    Way too many respectable React developers have been pushing them hard. I feel like a lot of them are not involved with creating and maintaining large apps, and they’ve overlooked the value of being able to comprehend what code is doing. It’s a cool hack, but the downsides outweigh the upsides for me.

    If Facebook wanted to do something completely different they should have made a new library.

    I’m already running into a bunch of React NPMs that were popular 2 years ago, getting abandoned because they use deprecated lifecycle methods, and people are requesting they be rewritten in hooks. That’s basically just starting over. A bunch of the libraries are hard enough to update to not use the deprecated lifecycle methods. The React ecosystem is going to be a bit of dumpster fire for the next couple of years. 😞

    FWIW, I’ve been using React everyday at work since 2014, and led the frontend development of Microsoft’s Visual Studio App Center; which is built with React and involved training dozens of new frontend developers. I’m so glad Hooks wasn’t around when we started building it.

  23. Thanks for the reply @Robert Werner I kind of agree what you are saying but does this not lead to creating properties or worse flags that’s only reason for being is to trigger a useEffect update. I find the code much harder to read this way.

  24. Paul, as I’ve mentioned to you before it’s the first message from Karen Grigoryan that got me thinking about this in a completely different way. Not saying that I know for sure that this approach is correct but I do know that doing things like calling async calls from an event handler is definitely the wrong thing to do.

  25. I will say that I don’t think it’s a problem of not being comfortable with functional programming, at least I hope not. I tend to use the functional programming syntax in both Python and JavaScript a lot and love them, but I feel like Hooks code is a puzzle to decode (solvable but not obvious at first glance like lots of other functional programming code I’ve seen). Though for example Haskell code can be hard to understand at glance, so maybe it’s functional in that sense?

  26. I’d like to see how Facebook rebuild their Facebook platform using hooks and let them post saying that React Hook is their biggest mistake haha

  27. One note from my side: `const Tag = `h${level}` as Taggable;` should be written as `const Tag = `h${level}` as React.ElementType;` otherwise TS is shouting about an error.

  28. I am so glad I found this post, just when I began to think I’m the only person in the world with a serious dislike of hooks.

    I share a lot of complaints that were shared in other comments, but let me add some more:

    Based on my experience so far hooks are what I like to call “write only code” 🙂 ie. code that you write and it works great, you’re super proud of it, but nobody else can actually read it and reason about it. Neither do you after 1 year.

    I may be old school and coming from OOP world, but I found class components very readable and easy to comprehend. I mean, passing an empty array as 2nd argument of useEffect to make it execute only once? How the hell is that clear?

    After years of working on a few multi-year projects (4+) and onboarding many developers to them (including juniors) I learnt to appreciate verbosity. Magical shortcuts, one-liners and hidden features always add (unnecessary) overhead.

  29. Do you have an idea of how to use one of these libs to fetch both on page load and using a button?

    Also, I like how react-async-hook allows me to pass it a fetching function rather than a URL, since sometimes I want to:

    (a) postprocess data coming from an API before passing it to my component for use, or
    (b) use different parameters in my fetching function from those required by the API (e.g. the API requires formatting like query=”title:wildfires and author:joe” and my function accepts (title, author) rather than (query)

    So, my ideal solution would be something that allows me to fetch on page load and via a button, and also allows me to use my own API functions for manipulating the result data and input parameters, not just passing in an URL, which seems restrictive to me. Thank you for this article.

  30. @TinyUltimate: Here’s the successful approach I’ve used to do what you’re asking about:

    // Define a component state variable
    const [isFetching, setIsFetching] = useState(false);

    // Define an event handler for your button
    const handleSubmit = (event) => {

    // Define a useEffect to handle the async call
    useEffect(() => {
    if (isFetching) {
    // Prepare whatever data you require here

    request.get(`…API Endpoint URL…`)
    .then(response => {

    .catch(error => {

    .finally(() ={


    }, [isFetching]);

    // In a separate file called requests.js, have a GET function
    // Note: In your component file above, do this: import request from ‘…requests’;
    export const get = async function(url: string, _options: any) {
    const options = _options || await _default_options();
    return axios.get(url, options);

  31. Thanks Robert but I don’t see how this would fetch on page load since isFetching is initialized to false. Also I was hoping a package could obscure the try/catch boilerplate code for error handling.

    @Dagda1, I skimmed your response post, and am not sure if it relates to my question. My react skills are not good enough to understand all the concepts there. I’m looking for a package that can let me do,

    (1) fetch on page load
    (2) fetch with a button click
    (3) fetch via my own custom function (not just a URL)
    (*) all in don’t-repeat-yourself fashion

    I’m happy to hear hooks make sense to you now. It still hasn’t sunk in for me, and I think your original point, that they’re not intuitive and impure, still stands for those who don’t yet “get” hooks.

  32. @TinyUltimate: I’ll just address your first paragraph. Every `useEffect` closure (aka construct) will run once upon startup. After that it will run again every time one of your dependencies changes. If you want it to run ONLY upon load then set the dependencies with an empty array like this:

    useEffect(() => {
    // Your code here
    }, []);

    I would STRONGLY recommend you watch some video tutorials on useEffect and React Hooks right away. They really helped me grasp the basic concepts. Some of my favourites are from: The Net Ninja, Ben Awad, Leigh Halliday, and Codevolution.

  33. PS what I meant in the above example is not that useEffect won’t run on page load, rather that the if statement within will evaluate to false on page load, and therefore won’t run on page load. Nonetheless I found another package that I like called react-query so I am going to try working with that. I appreciate your replies.

  34. I am still not decided if React hooks are as broken as I think or I just don’t get the essence of them, but run into several troubles:
    * they introduce completely new paradigm that no one is used to
    * I understand why useEffect is using basic Object.is instead of some other more/less clever algorithm, but is it really good idea to put together Object.is (what is basically a reference comparison for non value types) and functional components where everything is fresh new on every render call? IMHO this two things just don’t fit well together
    * reusability of hooks in case you want to apply them on multiple items instead of one eg. when you have hook for fetching data from server – ”
    const useFetch = (url:string) => {….}

    If you want to download data from 3 endpoints and do “[url1, url2, url3].each(url => useFetch(url))” React will say NO
    but if you create component that actually only wraps your useFetch

    function UseFetchWrapperComponent({url}) =>
    [url1, url2, url3].map(url => )
    ” React will say yeah that’s OK I’m glad to do that

    It seems like there is something really broken in hooks design

  35. I’ve recently been developing a React application. Hooks is very simple: it’s just another hack added onto a hack “language”… like extra marina on the spaghetti. But you get to crow that you’re a “full stack developer”, LOL.

  36. THIS! i kept reading and i was like “why he just don’t set a new state with the new page?”
    the component would re-render and the hook re-called with the new page

  37. You know that this point is the one repeated the most: “One of the biggest complaints is that you often have to repeat logic in componentDidMount and componentDidUpdate.”
    But at the same time that point is the stupidest one. It sounds like ‘For some reason react developers created 2 callbacks to react on properties changes instead of one and then when they realized how stupid that design is… instead of introducing the new one callback (exactly like useEffect) they decided to make things even more complicated’.

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