Contrary to common wisdom, is Facebook promoting empathy?

Posted on October 10, 2015  /  0 Comments

Now for something completely different. Empathy is a trait I greatly value. Apparently, it is not being destroyed by Facebook.

“In face-to-face connections, you tend to stay with people you’re most familiar with or have most in common with,” said Tracy Alloway, an associate professor of psychology and the lead author of the paper. “But Facebook can break down those boundaries. We can be exposed to different ways of thinking and emotional situations. On a somewhat superficial level, individuals disclose things about themselves, and that facilitates maybe not a deep sense of closeness, but the next time you see them, you may feel you know them a little better.”

Well, she might. A Pew Research Center report from January found that women with an average-size Facebook network are aware of 13 percent more stressful events in the lives of their friends than those without an account; for men, it was an 8 percent increase. Not only was women’s awareness of these events higher than men’s, but their increased awareness leads them to bear a greater “cost of caring” than men (though researchers also noted that “women report higher levels of stress to begin with”).

Moreover, the younger the user, the more aware he or she was of these stressful events, a finding that suggests the youngest generation may be the most amenable to screen-based opportunities for empathy.


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