Loss of Empathy because of Technology

will the next generation lose the ability to empathize because of technology Do you enjoy having deeply meaningful conversations? People are connected in so many ways today – cell phones, text messaging, emails, and social media to mention a few. And while I’m not opposed to technological advances, something is happening to our ability to connect on a deeper, empathetic level.

In a recent New York Times article, Sherry Turkle, a M.I.T professor, shares her insights on how texting has negatively impacted people’s ability to connect empathetically. Here are some of the highlights from the article:

A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center reports that 89 percent of cell phone owners used their phones during the last social gathering they attended, even though they felt that it hurt the conversation. (Click here to view the PDF.)

Many young people think they can text undetected while having an in-person conversation with someone. Students have even made up the “rule of three” in a group setting. If three people have their heads up and are paying attention, then you can look down at your phone. When you’re paying attention, someone else gets to look at his or her phone. Throughout the conversation people will be checking in and out. No place for deeply connecting conversations there.
In 2010, a team at the University of Michigan compared the data from 72 studies conducted over a 30-year period. They found a 40 percent decline in empathy among college students, predominantly since 2000. (Click here to view the PDF.)

A 2014 study found that children who attended a device-free outdoor camp were able to read facial emotions and correctly identify the emotions in videos significantly better than a control group after only five days of being disconnected from technology. What made the difference? They began talking to each other and this helped them to learn empathy.

A new term “app generation” refers to those who are very impatient because they’re used to phone apps responding quickly and predictable. Real conversations, however, are unpredictable. This deeper connection allows us to explore new ideas. They require that we’re fully present and vulnerable. We make eye contact and become aware of the other person’s body language and tone of voice. Their emotions touch ours so we respond appropriately, whether that means comforting them or respectfully challenging them. This kind of conversation causes empathy and intimacy to grow.

Perhaps this article makes you aware of a gap between how your life is right now and how you’d like it to be. Would you like to create more intimate relationships, but can’t find a way to connect? Perhaps it’s time to seek professional help. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please feel free to contact my office and schedule an appointment.

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