When (to and not to) use ES6 Arrow functions in JavaScript?

Abhay Jain
2 min readJan 5, 2021

It is important to note that arrow functions are anonymous, which means that they are not named.

This anonymity creates some issues:

Harder to debug

When you get an error, you will not be able to trace the name of the function or the exact line number where it occurred.

No self-referencing

If your function needs to have a self-reference at any point (e.g. recursion, an event handler that needs to unbind), it will not work.

Main benefit: No binding of ‘this’

In classic function expressions, the this keyword is bound to different values based on the context in which it is called. With arrow functions, however, this is lexically bound. It means that it usesthis from the code that contains the arrow function.

In the ES5, .bind(this) is required to help pass the this context into the function. Otherwise, by default this would be undefined.

When you should not use Arrow Functions

Object methods

When you call cat.jumps, the number of lives does not decrease. It is because this is not bound to anything, and will inherit the value of this from its parent scope.

var cat = {
lives: 9,
jumps: () => {
this.lives--;
}
}

Callback functions with dynamic context

If you need your context to be dynamic, arrow functions are not the right choice. Take a look at this event handler below:

var button = document.getElementById('press');
button.addEventListener('click', () => {
this.classList.toggle('on');
});

If we click the button, we would get a TypeError. It is because this is not bound to the button but instead bound to its parent scope.

When it makes your code less readable

It is worth taking into consideration the variety of syntax we covered earlier. With regular functions, people know what to expect. With arrow functions, it may be hard to decipher what you are looking at straight away.

When you should use them

Arrow functions shine best with anything that requires this to be bound to the context, and not the function itself.

Despite the fact that they are anonymous, Using them with methods such as map and reduce, makes code more readable.

--

--

Abhay Jain

Developer with 3 yrs of industrial experience in developing scalable web applications.