Is social media hurting empathy?

Information comes at us in lightening speed. With a quick click of a like button, one can feel as if they have meaningfully and actively participated in a cause. People today move across country to live amongst literal strangers but maintain that they have hundreds of virtual friends. Technologies such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can increase our sense of connection all while enabling us to live further apart from each other.

The amount of screen time we spend on devices potentially has a negative impact on learning basic social and physical cues that enable one to react with empathy. For instance, facial reading is a key component with the development of empathy. According to research conducted by David Matsumoto and Hyi Sung Hwang, the ability to read expressions is a critical part of developing empathy. In their article, Reading facial expressions of emotion, the researchers note “Reading facial expressions of emotion, and especially microexpressions, can aid the development of rapport, trust, and collegiality; they can be useful in making credibility assessments, evaluating truthfulness and detecting deception; and better information about emotional states provides the basis for better cooperation, negotiation, or sales. Health professionals can develop better rapport with patients, interact humanely with empathy and compassion, and make the right diagnosis by obtaining complete information.” Allotment of screen time within homes and in classrooms, is a daily expectation from children.

Figure 1: The Seven Basic Emotions and their Universal Expressions

faces

Research also shows an increase in levels of narcissism among Millennials coupled with the increase of social media use.  The article , Millennials, narcissism, and social networking: What narcissists do on social networking sites and why – asserts there is a correalation. The article states ” Recent research supports the often-made assertion that the Millennial generation, those in college from the early 2000s to late 2010s, are more narcissistic than previous generations….Narcissists lack empathy and have few, if any, close relationships, yet they strongly desire social contact, as others serve as their primary source of admiration and attention.”

Fig 2: Selfie Syndrome

 

social-media-make-us-narcissistic

I am of the branch that for every good there is a bad and vice versa. That said, if there is in fact a connection with social media and the decay of emotional connections (brought on by the lack of real social interaction social media allows) can the paradox be changed?

Are there ways to increase empathy development with children by using technology and social media?

If technology is viewed as a form of evolution, will the seven basic emotions and expressions be replaced by emoticons? 😉

For more info on the articles cited visit-  http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.592.7352&rep=rep1&type=pdf

http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx

 

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