Is empathy dead?
Empathy, a noun, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This emotion helps us form our various relationships; how we correlate with our professional colleagues, what makes us stick to our friends and family, why we like to say hello to certain people and why we ignore some. We build connections on an emotional level to survive.
This connection is based on our emotional abilities – how we feel about them? How do they affect us? Empathy allows us to learn to love, to communicate, and to cooperate and equips us to live in a society.
Empathy is perhaps the most important characteristic in human beings though it not limited them only. In fact, while statistics say that we humans are really good at empathizing or showing empathy towards others, this emotion is deteriorating. Or is it dead? I say dead this shocking incident of gang rape reported in the New York Times, will churn your insides and make you sick!
Forty people watched the gruesome Facebook live-streaming on a 15-year old girl being gang raped. Surprisingly, they never raised an alarm or called for help on her behalf.
The Chicago police officer who spoke to New York Times is said to be shocked and shaken as why people who viewed the brutality live did not call the police.
Fortunately, the girl is reunited with her family and is on her way to recovery. But no arrests were made.
Such a heinous crime should have caused a tsunami across the media. It should have cause protests and road blocks. But, it only caused for people to look away.How did this happen? Rape is a social evil we are living with but the failure to empathize or feel the pain of the victim is even more dangerous. Is it because we have become too individualistic? We live away from family, lead hectic lives and are running after our careers? Not entirely. We still connect with our work colleagues, catch up with friends and speak to immediate family daily if we live in different cities. But then, this is empathizing with people we know and love. What about empathy for people we don’t know but could need our help? Will you help the man on the street?
Empathy today is limited. It is confined to our known circles and even within this circle; we pick the people we want to be affected by. A lot of how this has shaped up comes from technology infiltration. In the earlier days, people really knew people, that is, they met on the street, said their hellos, how dos etc. today, our greetings are limited Facebook posts, status updates, Whatsapp pings, photo sharing etc. We might connect with someone because the other person seems cool.
Are we really swayed by emotions when our Facebook friend shares a cute picture, an emotional message or sad news? Or do we simply hit the reaction buttons out of habit? In our times, we use technology for the purpose of communication at such an extensive level as never seen before in the history of the world. We are connected to everyone through each and every app we have on the web as well as on our smartphones. Yet, we are unable to connect or understand one another. Our emotions are in a conflict.
First of all, our empathy system is biased. We might feel empathy for our friends who we really like and not enough for friends who we do not like no so much. The same can be said for various ethnic groups.
As Emile Bruneau, a neuroscientist at MIT has demonstrated, people especially fail if the larger group embodies an ideology or cultural trait they disagree with. In fact, you might empathize well with your friends, but if you have particularly strong associations with your “in the group,” you will have decreased empathy for those you feel are not in your group.
As we stay connected on social networking sites 24/7, we face information overload. What we see, read and hear on social media, print and broadcast mediums repeatedly tries to put us into a category. And within each of these categories, we are expected to feel and behave in a particular way. Therefore, we exist in silos to fulfill our roles in such groups. Constantly doing so, kills our empathy.
Emotionally damaging stories are on the rise and one can argue that they do not feel connected with each one of them. Our brains cannot handle so much and this leads to repression of feelings which destroys our ability to feel. But this does not change their reality. Because we fail to feel, they don’t cease to be wrong. There are victims who lose out on justice because of our inability to feel as a society.
We might blame the technology but it us who are to be blamed. We are letting technology rule our lives. We are making the choice to look away or ignore and not feel. It is in our hands to limit the influence of technology.
We cannot continue to survive in this manner because sooner than later it will begin to affect our real lives. Lack of empathy will affect our friendships, the ability to fall in love and so on. We will become zombies – undead yet unfeeling.
Source : www.speakingtree.in