You Confused Me w/Someone who Cares

Is our use of the Internet and social media making us cold and callous? Research implies empathy may be going the way of the dinosaur. To not care seems to be in style, particularly with generation “me.” (college students)

The University of Michigan Institute for Social Research completed a study on a somewhat unique topic.  Over a 30-year time period, they looked at college students and their degree of empathy.

You may ask, “what does that mean, anyway?”  Boiling it down to its simplest form, you could call it a measure of basic kindness and decency.  Can that really be measured?  According to the study, it can.

Researcher Sara Konrath and her colleagues pointed out several interesting observances about people and their ability to empathize:

  • College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago, with the steepest decline in empathy taking place after the year 2000.
  • In a related but separate study, Americans feel people, in general, are not as kind or helpful.
  • The recent rise of social media may also play a role in the drop in empathy.
  • “The ease of having ‘friends’ online might make people more likely to just tune out when they don’t feel like responding to others’ problems, a behavior that could carry over offline.
  • Exposure to violent media numbs people to the pain of others.
  • The term, “do-gooder’’ can be an insult, students driven by a fear of failure are likely to equate being soft-hearted with vulnerability.

Empathy, or the lack thereof, has been front and center recently because of some of the senseless behavior of people who seemingly don’t have a clue about how their actions affect others.  Consider the recent story about Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University that was bullied over the Internet.  A cyber prank/attack allegedly involving streaming video of him put out on the web, lead to him committing suicide.  A note on his Facebook page simply said, “Jumping off the GW bridge, sorry.”

Unfortunately, there are a number of stories like this.  Maybe all of them are not as severe, but people do/say/show things online that cause others harm.  The sad thing is, according to this study, some people in our world are not aware they are hurting people and are less likely to actually care.

Here are some questions to consider and for comment.

  • Are advances in technology, online communication and general connectedness causing the destruction of our very existence?
  • In general, do you feel more connected with people because you know everything about them through Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc.?
  • Are you more apt to say something online you wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face?
  • Are you more comfortable with your online interactions than your face-to-face interactions?

Related posts/content:

Social Media Declaration: The Human Touch

13-yr old commits suicide after being bullied

Bullying solutions

Photo credit: Veer.com

Author: Jespy

Grateful husband, happy father, passionate believer, PR geek and social media citizen,

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  • Tara

    No, social media does not make us anything. We already are what we are and social media let’s us exhibit or not exhibit those traits. Overpopulation pressure and survival instincts combine to make us look out for ourselves. As for the publicity of terrific, almost unbelievable stories of bullying, stalking, etc. thru the use of technology doesn’t mean it has increased or gotten worse. Thank the need to fill the airwaves with 24/7 news for you knowing more about those very local stories than in the past.

    • Anonymous

      It seems social media is a personality megaphone, amplifying who we are.

      Sent via DROID on Verizon Wireless

      —–Original message—–

  • speedcoaching

    I think technology has the ability to bring people together. I think people drive people apart. Parents are not teaching these important values to their children anymore because they are too busy trying to keep their jobs and such. I would be less likely to say hurtful things online because I know others may not understand and a person’s life may be ruined. I am, however, of a different generation.

    • http://JeromeEspy.com Jespy

      Great points. Like anything, I think some people abuse or mis-use something that has the potential for good.

  • http://twitter.com/prmommy0916 Katy Teer

    I think I am leaning more toward the comment you noted below, that…”It seems social media is a personality megaphone, amplifying who we are.” And, in some cases it’s really outstanding, in others not so much.

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