I mostly shut up about my thoughts on the internet a while ago. In part because the idea that not all was well had gone main stream and in part because I began to bore myself!
For the nth time I should point out that I work in technology and consider the internet to be both wonderful but also something we need to look very hard at to ensure it serves us for good.
Our history is littered with our obsessions with new and interesting things which, encouraged by well meaning marketing people, we thought terribly cool, but which turned out to be rather bad for us. When we look back it is easy to ridicule our forebears for embracing cigarettes, radium toothpaste, soda with cocaine in it and my favourite, radium cigarettes.
My favourite which I stumbled on while writing this and simply could not believe:
Then there is this. Shouldn’t they be talking to each other?
“…In 2010, a team at the University of Michigan led by the psychologist Sara Konrath put together the findings of 72 studies that were conducted over a 30-year period. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, with most of the decline taking place after 2000.”
The whole article is here:
The whole NY Times Article that comes from is here. It is about Sherry Turkle’s latest tome, Reclaiming Conversation. If you think this goes on a bit…
Much of that decline is attributed to our use of the internet and primarily social media. That study was carried out on students. Typically outgoing, bright young things.
I am wondering if Social Media (among other online things, I’ve tried to keep this short, but I could have added on line Gaming for example) is doing so much more harm than good, that we ought to either re design it (see previous tedious rambles on that) or simply turn it off. Not as individuals, but off altogether, pull the plug.
Empathy matters, it is essential to our being human, it is essential to our humanity. Empathy is what causes us to behave well towards each other it is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
I have no idea what level of empathy has fallen to among young poor, uneducated, unemployed, isolated people. I am willing to guess that it has fallen a lot further than 40%. Every time we suffer a terrorist outrage, those factors tend to feature in the analysis of the perpetrators, as do tales of radicalisation through Social Media with its narrow perspectives, easy anonymity and lack of accountability.
The situation in Europe at present is dangerous and complicated. The causes many, having built over centuries. Declining empathy, arcane though it sounds, is a dangerous and destabilising accelerant though, and I suspect what is tipping the balance towards chaos. Dewy eyed middle class concerns about ensuring that bright young things are fully rounded are a bit of a side show. The examples are many.
I suppose we could put a health warning on it.
Social Media May Seriously Diminish Your Empathy.
I doubt that will be enough.
I wonder also if we will look back with incredulity at how we allowed ourselves to embrace something that damaged our very humanity. (And yes, its good fun and I’ve learned a lot and made some new friends, blah blah blah.)
Anyway, what do you think?