Saturday, July 10, 2010

The death of empathy?

Random thoughts from Going Green Mama....

Recently I read an article in Time magazine on how personal contact is even more valued than ever in this digital era. While it's interesting to me from a work perspective, this is what struck me most:

Another recent study, by researchers at the University of Michigan, found
that college students today have significantly less empathy — the ability to
understand and share the feelings of another — than students of generations past
did. The reason, psychologists speculate, may have something to do with our
increasing reliance on digital communication and other forms of new media.

Frankly the study bothered me, and not because I take issue with the research. It's just another example of research or rhetoric about how we as a global society are hiding behind our technology and opting for quantity in relationships over quality. And empathy, I think, stems from those deeper relationships.

So here's what I'm wondering today: If we're as a nation becoming less empathetic,what does that mean for our efforts to help others, to pave a better future for the next generation and live a more sustainable life?

Is it all about self-focused ideals such as better health or bragging rights? Or will we ultimately get to the point where nobody cares?


Simply Authentic said...

I agree with where you're going with those thoughts--less empathy is never a good thing for feeling the need to take care of the planet and each other. One additional thought I had though is that it seems that people are much more dramatic now. We get bent over shape about the smallest thing (which then gets plastered all over the internet) whereas our forefathers would have sucked it up. They lived in some challenging times and without many modern amenities, but you don't always see much in writing or in stories about how much they complained about it. Instead they trudged along and worked at making life better. When we see so much crap on the TV and when so many of our news stations are littered with "news" about what the celebrities are up to, its no wonder that so much of the internet is plastered with individuals complaining about this or that. Maybe its harder to be empathetic when you feel your constantly having to demonstrate "empathy" over others dramatic moments? I'm not sure....but just an additional thought.....

underbelly said...

I think my meat-eating, SUV-driving, 55-yr-old father is much less empathetic than I, a graduate student, am. just sayin'

Fayinagirl (means Free One) said...

I do believe we have to have physical contact in order to truly empathize with others. It doesn't have to be constant, but really should happen daily.

While virtual communities are great (and I would truly feel the loss of those of which I am a part) we need to be involved in our physical community as well.

It is not strictly an either/or proposition. As in all things, balance is key.

Rosa said...

Maybe our culture has just shifted to not value the *appearance* of empathy? Or maybe we're so much more aware of global suffering, every little local sorrow has to be cranked up more to compete.

I flat out don't believe the "electronic communications are killing our human instincts" because so much of it is stories and connecting with people far away who I never got to hear any details about when I was a college freshman.

TheCrone said...


I blogged about this back in April after my second miscarriage

Blessed be xx



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