Forums > Personal > Students 40% less empathetic than they were in 1979

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Posted: 01 Jun 10, 13:28 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Today’s college kids are 40-per-cent less empathetic, study finds

Facebook and MySpace cited as major forces in the rise of narcissism and the ‘ability to ignore others’ pain’

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/work/todays-college-kids-are-40-per-cent-less-empathetic-study-finds/article1587609/

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Posted: 04 Jun 10, 08:16 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

We needed a study to prove that social networking sites are destroying our ability to communicate with one another?

The irony is, most people will shrug this off because they'll think it doesn't affect them, being better and more important than everyone else and all...


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Posted: 04 Jun 10, 10:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

to myself of the best thing ive done in recent years was to delete for my myspace and facebook pages .....  sometimes even get rid of numbers on my phone i just like to talk to people now face of face.

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Posted: 06 Jun 10, 16:53 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

This research really stunned me.  Assuming the protocols etc. were valid and the conclusions correct that is a potentially hugely consequential sea change in the way people relate to one another. 40%! 

The article mentions callous reality shows, and I couldn't agree more.  The entire genre invites the polarized objectification of people and their troubles.  Even something like Survivor glorifies and rewards the self serving. I wach one episode years ago and swore never to watch again, and I haven't.  I'm always the odd duck out at work who refuses to play in the Survivor pool.

This wasn't mentioned in the article, and may not be relevant, but I would put forth another theory as well.  I think empathy is also developed though one's own experiencing of pain, hardship, failure, rejection etc. etc.  Much of this latest generation has been largely insulated from an awful lot of that because their lives and social interactions are so managed.  Nobody fails anymore, everybody gets a trophy, anti-bullying measures are encoded in educational charters, parents agressively solve their children's problems for them across mutlple dimensions, and children's free play is more organized and monitored by adults than it ever has been in history.

And the creating of little narcissists can begin even before children are born.  In another little odd duckism baby showers are a grim experience for me.  The sheer amount of consumerism and truly unnecessary luxuries literally heaped and piled on a prospective human life is absurd.  I sit there thinking about babies born in abject poverty in so many other places and I feel like I'm participating in something deeply illogical and even a little obscene.  I sound like so much fun at a party, eh! LOL  Anyway, it continues for many children through the rest of their lives and I'm not surprised in any way at the rise in narcissim as discussed in the article.

Facebook and other social media are likely culprits for sure, but so is the internet in general for people of any generation.  I've done a tremendous amount of reading and reflecting about human behaviour from personal interest and frankly sheer necessity, and I know full well the risks of abusing others over the internet through the suspension of normal social rules and the behaviour of groups and I still find I have to check my behaviour and pull back in certain situations.   And I'm a person with awareness and a desire to do the right thing who should know better.

Another aspect of the internet and intolerance and a lack of empathy with other people's point of view is the ability to completely isolate yourself from competing ideas and seek out only reinforcement for what you already believe on a scale that is essentially limitless.  It's the electronic version of studies that have explained the predominance of single political ideologies in flyover country as resuting from community echo chambers where beliefs are continuously reinforced.  To counter this I regularly read two prominent conservative/libertarian blogs with an eye to really digging in and understanding the point of view even though I rarely completely agree.

Jesus what an unforgivabley long post.  I'm so sorry.  If you've gotten this far and would like an apology please let me know. ;)  I'll just end by saying that I've been speaking as though maximum empathy is the most desirable state, and that's really perhaps not the case.  It's really about adaptablility and being able to function in your world.  If 80% of the world is less empathetic or whatever than you are (my situation for sure) then it's you (me) that has to make the adjustments in cognition and interpretation of the actions of others and most importantly in one's expectations of others.  There are entire philosophies (like Ayn Rand's obectivism) that completely eschew obligations to others and instead advocate responsibe self interest as the best way towards progress and personal fulfillment.  If all these newly unempathetic people are all operating by the same set of rules that may work out just fine.

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Posted: 06 Jun 10, 17:11 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Great post Grateful Fan. You're a real asset to Queenzone: an intelligent and thoughtful person.

This thread reminds me of a cartoon I saw a while back -- university life, then and now:

http://selection.weblog.glam.ac.uk/assets/2009/11/30/The_Geek02.jpg


"With a population of 1.75 million, Northern Ireland should really be a footballing minnow. Instead, they could be better described as the piranhas of the international game" (FIFA.com)
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Posted: 07 Jun 10, 21:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

^  :)

I had something else I wanted to add last night but was afraid one more paragraph might tip over the whole forum. ;)  Guess what else is messing with the comprehension of emotional language and cues from others?  Botox. As in people who have had botox struggle with comprehending certain types of emotional cues from other people.  I found that fascinating.  http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sc-health-0602-botox-20100603-11,0,5579516.story

Also,  some might be interesed in this doc called 'Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids'.  Runs about 40 minutes and talks among other things about the typical lives of young children today and how kids are arriving at university more stressed out and less prepared for the workforce than at any time in history.

http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Shows/Doc_Zone/ID=1405930535

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Posted: 07 Jun 10, 22:27 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

GratefulFan wrote:

"I sound like so much fun at a party, eh! LOL"

I'd be the chap at the other side of the room thinking the same things you're thinking.  We'd chat up the storm and be the life of the party... even though nobody else would think so !

Excellent post, as always.


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Posted: 07 Jun 10, 23:32 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thanks Sir GH.  :)  As I tried to tell someone earlier today, it's the kind of post that could easily have dropped like stone here, so I'm grateful to those who took a moment to tell me it hadn't.

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Posted: 08 Jun 10, 02:43 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

ah yes, a friend of mine "tweeted" this to me earlier...

So I've posted it on Facebook.

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Posted: 08 Jun 10, 09:19 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That's cold Microwave.  Really cold.  Brrrrrr.

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Posted: 16 Jun 10, 16:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

A wonderful article I thought about a man who lives across from a popular suicide spot in Sydney, Australia.  It begins:

"In those bleak moments when the lost souls stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, the sound of the wind and the waves was broken by a soft voice. "Why don't you come and have a cup of tea?" the stranger would ask. And when they turned to him, his smile was often their salvation."

http://www.comcast.net/articles/news-world-asia/20100613/AS.Australia.The.Suicide.Watchman/

I enjoyed the read for it's own sake, but what struck me and why I posted it here were the haunting and sometimes final words of those who would not have carried out their plan if someone, anyone, had taken a moment to connect with them and notice their pain.  A situation bound to get worse if the original article in this thread is to be believed.  Lonliness is a terrible and unnecessary scourge, and this article demonstrates that looking up from our own lives, sometimes even for just a few moments, might be a wonderfully worthwhile thing.

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Posted: 17 Jun 10, 07:08 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

The story was great.  And the fact that the man is not driven crazy or even having insomnia after these incidents is the most remarkable thing (I think).  He does seem pretty angelic to me.

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Posted: 17 Jun 10, 08:00 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

GratefulFan wrote:

'll just end by saying that I've been speaking as though maximum empathy is the most desirable state, and that's really perhaps not the case. 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
I think we can be quite sure that's not the case! : )

I agree with much of that, but I'd qualify your conclusions by remarking that there are many people, much more than we are ready to admit, whose shy and introspective behaviour is trait-related and may not have anything to do with internet or
facebook. We like to think of ourselves as social beings; fact is that a huge chunk of humanity is simply
not predisposed to social interaction - they'll keep to themselves even if their parents go out of their way
to "socialize" them.

In the past, that person would either hide behind any lonely hobby or be forced to get along with other
people; the more gifted, the likes of Nietzsche or Van Gogh, would probably hide behind their genius at
a very high cost.

People who are good at, and enjoy, interacting more closely and more often with others
will likely succeed in doing so both in and out of the web, I guess. 

I say for myself: I'd hate to live in an all-empathetic society. Really. More often than not, I'm simply
not in the mood to socialize, and I'm not a TV or internet-addict! In fact, I barely watch TV, and I
have a genuine distaste for reality shows and don't even have a facebook profile!


Yara
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Posted: 18 Jun 10, 10:21 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yara:

I don't think the desire or ability to empathize is related at all to how intrinsically introverted or extraverted a person is. Empathy does not even require interaction or socialization; one can be wordlessly empathetic from across the room, or in the case of the internet, across an ocean. Empathy does not always require any action, just the desire and the ability to feel how another might feel. Sometimes the specific action of empathy is actually inaction, when one perceives that's what the object of one's empathy needs or wants.

In fact, I'd even challenge your post to the point of flipping on it's head. Introversion, sensitivity and egocentrism are often bedfellows, all interacting together as both cause and effect for each other. Remember that empathy is partly defined as the projection of feelings onto another, which is a different thing completely from the accurate perception of the feelings of someone else. Those who quietly hang back are often introspective and intensely observant of both their own inner words and the worlds of others. The less one directly interacts with people, the more reliant one is on empathy to make sense of the world.

Finally, I think it would be a huge mistake to assume all socially tentative people are the way they are due to an inherent desire for solitude. The more sensitive a person is to the bumps and bruises of social interactions the more life can wear them down. Their emotional lives can become dominated by fear of rejection, feelings of worthlessness, and a helpless sense of being on the outside looking in. People can find themselves completely unable to express their needs or forge the connections they very much want. Then they end up pacing up and down the Golden Gate Bridge in tears, desperately hoping, often fruitlessly, that someone will see.  'Seeing' is not a responsibility that is for everyone, but there are a great number of people, like that man in Sydney, who find it a natural and fulfilling part of their own makeup.

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Posted: 18 Jun 10, 10:30 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

GratefulFan wrote:

"Introversion, sensitivity and egocentrism are often bedfellows, all interacting together as both cause and effect for each other. Remember that empathy is partly defined as the projection of feelings onto another, which is a different thing completely from the accurate perception of the feelings of someone else. Those who quietly hang back are often introspective and intensely observant of both their own inner words and the worlds of others. The less one directly interacts with people, the more reliant one is on empathy to make sense of the world."

Excellent post, as always.  I highlight this part in particular and would like to challenge it.  Are you thereby suggesting that the more one interacts with others, the less empathetic they are?  Or just in the case of some?


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Posted: 18 Jun 10, 11:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sir GH wrote: GratefulFan wrote:

"Introversion, sensitivity and egocentrism are often bedfellows, all interacting together as both cause and effect for each other. Remember that empathy is partly defined as the projection of feelings onto another, which is a different thing completely from the accurate perception of the feelings of someone else. Those who quietly hang back are often introspective and intensely observant of both their own inner words and the worlds of others. The less one directly interacts with people, the more reliant one is on empathy to make sense of the world."

Excellent post, as always.  I highlight this part in particular and would like to challenge it.  Are you thereby suggesting that the more one interacts with others, the less empathetic they are?  Or just in the case of some?
==============================================

No, of course not. Not at all.   I was only trying to say that empathy oftens subs in for the things we glean from two way social interactions for those who are more introverted.  The intent was to answer Yara's point  that empathy is a non necessary and even undesirable aspect of human interchange for her and others she perceives to be like her (ironically, that perception is empathy in and of itself), and not make a broad statement about how one develops empathy (or not).

I would suspect that the more one interacts with others the more accurate one's empathetic perceptions might become because one is not exclusively or primarily using the self and one's own experience as the template. So that's probably one benefit of being a bit more social.

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Posted: 18 Jun 10, 13:12 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Ok, now I get it. I thought you were equating active social interactions with empathy. 

I was assuming empathy should be some kind of "wanting-to-do-good" feeling, a "we are the world", Bono-UN-like spirit. If I don't go out adopting poor kids or don't spend the party thinking about world suffering , I'm not empathetic, say. I'm not much of a party-goer, but when I'm at a party, then I'm at a party (!), and pereat mundus!!!

So there's a difference between empathy and solidarity. One may foster the other, but they are not the same.

Let's say we lived in an all-egocentric world. If I had the desire and the ability to feel what others were feeling, and I did so only in order to better pursue my own interests, say, would I be then an empathetic person, despite my egocentrism? It seems you're defining empathy almost as If it were something like a skill that one can use pretty much the way he or she wanted!

Should one then add to the definition: "The ability and desire to feel what others are feeling and trying to be positive about it, either by action or inaction?".

One could say: "Many Germans were empathetic in the 40s to the extent that they could feel just like Hitler did", or the other way around. Many people understood each others' fears of, and hatred for, Jews, and had the same desire to, in some way, get rid of them. Take the huge number of people who actively believed and supported the regime.

Would we call them empathetic? If so, then empathy would be shaped according to the culture one lives in, I assume.

Take a suicide-bomber: he may be perceived in his environment as someone very empathetic towards what really matters, and what really matters would vary across cultures.

Isn't it scary?


Yara
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Posted: 19 Jun 10, 00:40 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I guess my question is why does this matter?  Does it really matter if Joe Blow on the street "feels you?"  (Very odd word choices, I know.)
If anything, social networking sites have functioned in a way other communication media have for decades - information overload.  Now, instead of a weekly call from a friend away, we are inundated constantly with everyone's problem in real time.  It's not that people care less, it's simply a case of having too much to care about at any given time.

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Posted: 19 Jun 10, 07:10 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Well, it was interesting to me seeing the news coverage of food being fought over in Haiti.  These groups of young men were fighting over a box of food as if it was a game (is it in Rugby that players can grab the ball or whatever it is out of another player's hands?).  It seemed so odd to me (a no-win situation).  I was thinking that if this were another more decent and civilized country, that people would be able to share the food and that maybe some men or women in good health would choose to go hungry in order to feed other family members (older more feeble grandparents or young children).  

I think that the very basis of a functional society is empathy and trust.  Not wanting to hurt another person would make it easy to follow most laws.  There would be no more murders or thefts or rapes or physical or emotional cruelty to others, including animals.

And then I started thinking that each society has a percentage of people who just don't care if others are on the receiving end of pain.  These are the criminals of society.  So, at which percentage does a society fall apart (such as in Haiti)?  I mean, do you need to have 99.5 percent of all members "normal" and "nice" people?   If three out of every 10 people are of a criminal-type (without empathy) personality, is this the amount that makes for system-wide corruption and lack of progress?

Anyway, about the study, I think that studies like that are pretty hard to understand.  Sure, you can get results, maybe the results you are expecting (ha), but does that really prove that people are different?  Maybe they are just conditioned by more competition, more electronic distractions, more entertainment, and less time to fit it all in.  Maybe at the core they have not changed at all.  Or maybe it is something else in the mix - overcrowding or the urban environment of people being tested.  Also, with the example of the med student taking the picture, I think there is still a recklessness in what people are willing to share with others electronically, which in the worst case can be seen by the world.  I mean, imagine that dead person's family seeing the picture.  Shocking.

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Posted: 06 Jul 10, 16:46 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

YOU KNOW... I DON'T CARE FOR YOUR TOPIC.

No no no no...

i don't care.

(irony) :)

*(its understandable, communication isn't the norm... turn off your tv or something, go start a scooter gang... help us all, before the next Ga Ga album comes packaged with SOYLENT GREEN)


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