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The Demise of Empathy

  • An increasingly safe and organized society has caused The Demise of Friendship
  • The increasingly busy lifestyle that the consumer society has created (24-hour entertainment and 24-hour shopping) is another factor that is reducing empathy. People have always been busy, but usually they were busy working. As work hours were reduced, the consumer society filled spare time with all sorts of activities, from salsa classes to the gym. That meant less and less time available for thinking about the people who really matter in your life. Busy people don't have time to call (let alone visit) their friends and not even their parents. One's "active" life takes higher priority over other people's well-being (euphemistically called "active" when in fact it is mostly passive)
  • The information overload is also decreasing empathy. Think of deaths and funerals. In the past a celebrity's death would be big news all over the world, broadcast by tv and radio networks at the same time as one of the few news of the day. An ordinary person's death used to be big news in her neighborhood. Everybody would hear of the death, everybody would be informed of the date of the funeral and many would attend. In underdeveloped countries and in dictatorships where world news and access to the Internet are still very limited this is still the case. In developed countries, where people are constantly bombarded by "news" (of dubious quality) someone's death becomes a footnote inside a very congested "news feed". We care for a few minutes but then we are immediately distracted by an avalanche of chats, emails, tweets, text messages and, last but not least, all the searches that we decide to do on our own. We care for the death of a scientist only for a few minutes. Who died this year? You probably saw the news that a few very important people died this year, but you don't remember. In the old days you would have spent weeks and perhaps months talking about those deaths. We mourn our grandmother's death for a few days, then we are back to our busy routine.
  • The potentially unlimited world of pushing and pulling information has created a vast ocean of mediocre empathy.
  • In my travels around the world i routinely observe how much more "empathic" the people of a small village with no electricity are compared with the citizens of the big frantic cities of the developed world. The developed world increasingly lives in the age in which one's natural reaction to a car accident is NOT to stop and see how we can help but to take pictures and make videos to post on the Internet.
  • Despite the multiplication of environmental and animal-rights groups, over 56 billion farmed animals are killed every year by humans. That's more than 3,000 animals killed every second in slaughterhouses. Many of them never saw daylight because they were kept in captivity since they were born. Many of them never experienced nature. And that's not counting all the "pests" exterminated by humans either because they may cause diseases or because they eat our vegetables or simply because we don't like them.