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We need a rebirth of empathy

Tom Purcell on

Dr. Helen Riess, author of “The Empathy Effect,” says empathy’s decline has to do with social media.

A Street Roots report on her book says “many of the neurological keys to feeling empathy are missing from the exchange” when we communicate through texts, email and social media posts.

When communicating electronically, not face to face, there’s no chance of paying attention to body language and facial expressions — or to make eye contact, which is a really important component of empathy.

Psychology Today cites research, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, that a simple lack of eye contact enables an anonymity that fosters rudeness and encourages online trolling.

Unfortunately, the magazine reports, the era of smartphones and social media — of nasty tweets and Facebook insults — is making rudeness “our new normal.”

Riess continues that without emotional cues that we can see, we’re left with only words (and images) on a screen, which leads to detachment and creates emotional indifference.

An increasing number of people treat those with whom they disagree this way — which contributes to the general decline of empathy in our civil discourse.

Though Riess says empathy is being blunted, she emphasizes to Forbes that it can be learned.

 

Her thinking is seconded by an interesting New York Times article that identifies specific actions we can all take to restore empathy in our own hearts.

The simple truth is that we need to stop hiding behind our electronic devices and actively engage with people face-to-face.

We need to set politics aside now and then to embrace our common humanity — and relearn how to sympathize with suffering when humans are at their worst.

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Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.


Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, All Rights Reserved. Credit: Cagle.com

 

 

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