Compassion and empathy are key components to a flourishing society. Unfortunately, since the birth of a digital age, studies show a sharp drop in empathy. One particular study charted empathic concern, which determines how much one person cares for another. Someone with empathic concern might let someone go ahead of them in line at a store, give money to a homeless person, volunteer or even live on a vegetarian diet. The results of the study are shocking. Between 1979 and 2009, empathic concern dropped 48%. Just let that sink in for a moment.
The rise of social media and being connected online is linked to the decline of human connectedness. Our relationships tend to be one-dimensional and any conversation to be had has a soundtrack of ringing bells and the glow of a screen, hauntingly calling the attention away from the person we are with in the flesh. “Just one second,” we giggle. “I just have to answer this really quick. Oh my god! Holly is hysterical.” Soon our friend has lost interest. Her mind has drifted away somewhere else, or to her own phone. Solid connections are impossible to make with these kinds of distractions always impeding us.
When technology takes over and we have a hard time making connections with people in the real world, it becomes difficult for us to feel compassion or empathy for people. The incessant 24/7 newsfeed desensitizes us to the world’s problems and we hardly bat an eye when we see images of war, destruction, starving children and the like. It saddens me when I hear people complaining about agencies lending a helping hand. We are human. That’s what we do when one of us has fallen down; we help pick them back up. Wanting our society and our world to succeed is imperative to striving. Sometimes that requires giving them the tools they need to make it. I am afraid for our children’s future if we don’t start making changes soon to our perspective.
Obviously the first step to becoming more engaged with society is to disconnect from technology. I love my phone and the internet as much as the next person but I find that I often lose myself in the digital world, obsessively checking Facebook or the handful of web sites that I keep up to date with. I always feel like I am going to miss out on an inspiring article or an interesting post when really I am missing out on all of the inspiration the world has to offer me if I would just look up from my screen. Every time I waste half an hour behind a screen, I could have been learning something new about one of my children or working on my awareness project (more information to come later!). Sometimes I feel like my brain gets clogged up with all the information that I take in from the internet and it doesn’t allow for creativity which is why I have been struggling with my project in the first place. To aid this, I think any time a group of people gather, a “No Phones Allowed” rule is crucial. Try to limit your phone/ internet usage, even if you are alone. Being disconnected from the digital world will help you reconnect with yourself which is important in building compassion and empathy traits. Let’s get reconnected to those around us and get to know each other again. It might just change the world.