Quantcast
Latest Stories

EUREKA!

Lack of empathy in a wired world

By

(First of three parts)

“Young people are so rude these days,” says a teacher in a co-ed school. “They are so loud and noisy in cafés, not caring for those working on their laptops. In school, no one volunteers to erase the (writing on the) board or carry my bag, unlike in the past.

“When they rush past on their way to nowhere and happen to bump into you, they do not even apologize. In the movies, they keep on texting and even talk on the phone, not caring if they are spoiling the experience for other people. They are so used to characters being killed left and right on screen that they do not seem to care anymore.”

He concludes, “Our youth lack empathy.”

Several of my college students say their relationships start online. Though not ideal, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. But their relationships also tend to end as abruptly and publicly.

One of my male students angrily bashes his ex-girlfriend, who broke up with him through text. “When I confronted her, she would not even talk to me!” he fumes.

Another student found out he was dumped only when his ex’s Facebook status reverted to “Single.” “The whole world knew we were no longer together, except me,” he says. “She doesn’t have a heart.”

Generation Me

In 2011, psychologists Sara Konrath, Edward O’Brien and Courtney Hsing of the University of Michigan analyzed 72 different studies of 14,000 American college students for the last 30 years, from 1979 to 2009.

They found that college students today scored 40-percent lower in empathy than those of the past decades, with the biggest drop coming at the turn of the millennium.

Students today do not agree as much as before with statements like “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.”

Various reasons have been advanced for the lack of empathy of Generation Me. Violent media can be a factor, making people insensitive to others’ pain.

But the rise of social media can also contribute to this decrease 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,” O’Brien says.

According to the University of Michigan News, “Add in the hypercompetitive atmosphere and inflated expectations of success … and you have a social environment that works against slowing down and listening to someone who needs a bit of sympathy.”

“College students today may be so busy worrying about themselves and their own issues that they don’t have time to spend empathizing with others, or at least perceive such time to be limited,” O’Brien adds.

Fragmented lives

It may seem easier to start relationships online, but this may not necessarily transfer over to maintaining a stable one in real life.

“There have been significant declines in the number of organizations and meetings people are involved in, as well as in the number of average family dinners and friendly visits,” the researchers say. “Indeed, people today have a significantly lower number of close others to whom they can express their private thoughts and feelings.”

If we throw in the easy accessibility and lightning speeds of technologies, we tend to get more frustrated or even bored when things do not go as we want them to, resulting in less empathic interactions.

To top it off, technologies now are fragmented. Think of a family with each member on his/her own iPad, iPhone, laptop and so forth, channeled to his/her own personal interests and self-expression.

In a world of fragmentation, it would be less easy for many of us to reach out to other people and practice empathy in our dealings with them.

Downtime

“Today’s adolescents have no less need than those of previous generations to learn empathic skills, to think about their values and identity and to manage and express feelings,” says Massachusetts Institute of Technology clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle in her book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.”

Our children and our teens need time to reflect, to think, to discover themselves, others and the world around them. But with intrusive technology, “when is downtime, when is stillness?” Turkle asks.

I am not saying that text messaging and social networking make reflection and thought impossible. But these “do little to cultivate” them.

For example, since starting relationships seem so easy and smooth online, these seem not to be prized as much. Therefore, ending relationships is treated as easily.

“How [can] … children … develop empathy and compassion when the electronic world allows them to meet and discard people at the drop of a hat?”  say United States teen counselors Barbara Melton and Susan Shankle in their book “What in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online?”

E-mail the author at blessbook@yahoo.com.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Behavior , column , Learning , queena n. lee-chua , wired world , Youth




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  2. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  3. Palace prepared to charge its allies
  4. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  5. Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  6. What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  7. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  8. Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  9. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  10. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  5. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  6. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  7. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  10. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  1. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  2. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  3. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
Advertisement

News

  • Smooth Edsa ride up in 2 years, but…
  • Obama: US will defend Japan vs China
  • Santiago accuses Lacson of fronting for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Name names, Lacson told
  • Ukraine FM: We are ready to fight Russia
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Denims that keep you cool–literally
  • Entertainment

  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • OMB exec’s assurance: We work 24/7
  • Business

  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Gaming stocks gain, PSEi eases on profit-taking
  • Cebu Pacific flew 3.74M passengers as of March
  • Technology

  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • Career diplomat is new PH consul general in Los Angeles
  • US4GG: Aquino should ask Obama for TPS approval, drone technology
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement