Social media and empathy

This article is worth a read. It helps explain a persistent feeling I’ve had of being unable to relate to people on the other side of the political spectrum. It felt like we were living in completely different worlds. Turns out, we are.

How We Broke Democracy

– Allison 

2 thoughts on “Social media and empathy”

  1. I must confess, that I read this article reluctantly, but I’m glad that I did. I’ve been hearing much decrying of bubbles lately. Granted, as an academic people have been accusing me of being in a bubble for a lot longer than the current fashionable trend to do so.

    Yes, academics are in bubbles, but at the same time I have been reminded about that over and over again. It’s an attack that a lot of people use on academics. It’s effective because there is truth to it, but there is not kindness to that attack and truth without kindness is often just abuse. People, often people I love, have been quite cruel about pointing out that I’m in a bubble. The accusations have often felt like an attack on my character rather than an opportunity for change.

    This article raises a number of good points about bubbles and compassion, but there are certain things that are implied that I’m not entirely comfortable with. I live in a city that is dominated by conservative philosophy, outlook, assumptions and media. It is important for me to have compassion for the hurt of the Trump voter, but that has to be balanced with a very real disgust for the things that are being done in the name of his movement. Yes, I need to hear the concerns of middle America, those concerns are legitimate. At the same time I can’t condone the rhetoric that has gone into promoting the hate crimes that are sweeping the country in the past week.

    A number of posts that I’ve seen on bubbles lately have really focused on the bubbles that liberals are in. I really like how this article approaches it from the standpoint of everyone being in a bubble and a call to arms for attempting to deal with the bubbles.

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    1. Your point about not condoning hateful rhetoric is well taken. I had an aunt post a hateful comment on one of my Facebook posts (that wasn’t even a political post), something about “Killary,” and when I asked her to stop she went on about liberals and tolerance and censorship. Apparently, asking her to be respectful was censorship, and I was supposed to tolerate being screamed at in my own space. This is the sort of thing that sends me running back to my bubble, honestly, because if that’s what’s on the outside, count me out. That kind of interaction makes empathy very difficult for me. (And it’s obviously innocuous in comparison to hate crimes.) Sure, there’s something behind her powerful emotional response, but do I really care to find out what it is?

      I’m not sure what the answer is here. Rejecting racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc is a moral imperative, but I don’t know how to do that and retain empathy for the person espousing those views. Some views are so abhorrent to me that I don’t *want* to find common ground with people who subscribe to them.

      I do wonder about the impact of labeling hateful views without further discussion; i.e., responding to concerns about immigration by labeling them racist. The discussion tends to end at that point, because most people think racism is bad, but don’t regard their views as racism. Being labeled as racist confirms that the liberals are out to get them, so why should they listen to anything liberals have to say? And it goes both ways. Once I’ve decided someone’s views are racist, they’ve lost credibility with me. Can we have discussions without using those trigger words or labeling people (and I’m not talking here about actual hate crimes, which should be vehemently condemned)? Labels almost immediately shut down empathy.

      I have stopped reading the clickbait outrage-inducing liberal sources and I’m fact-checking everything I agree with before sharing. I do think I need to seek out legitimate conservative news sources as well. I may not be able to handle “equal time,” but at the very least, I can push the boundaries of my bubble.

      Liked by 1 person

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