Empathy is about understanding someone else’s emotions. It is the capacity for changing perspective and sharing another’s experience vicariously as if you were in their place. The Digital Age complicated the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
The Internet teaches the brain to function differently. Amongst the tweets, texts, dinging notifications, shares, and tags, the brain is rapidly changing. As it evolves (or devolves, depending on your perspective), compulsion and distraction are made mainstream, and scattered thoughts are the norm.
Technological stimulation, while often a source of quick ideas and inspiration, can also leave you fatigued. When you emerge, you may be surprised by the amount of time you’ve spent engulfed in a state of complete absorption. The benefits reaped come at a cost. The ability to abruptly change trains of thought as you dart quickly between ideas may feel freeing. In truth, these habits foster the kind of confused, distracted thinking that chronically hinders your perception of the subtleties of deeper relationships offline.
In “The Shallows,” Nicholas Carr writes, “It’s not only deep thinking that requires a calm, attentive mind. It’s also empathy and compassion.”
Here, he cautions against complacency: “One of the greatest dangers we face as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system… [is] a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity.”
Human beings are wired for companionship, affection, and attachment. As parents, you must work to show your children the value of these qualities.
You don’t have to allow a “powerful electronic system” to “automate the work of our minds” or “cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories.” To avoid having your values perforated by the cutting edge, you must affirm your humanity. As parents, you can do a great deal by creating a safe and loving environment for your children. There, you can model and emphasize the meaning of healthy attachment, demonstrating the importance of treating others with empathy, selflessness, affection, and respect.
Read more on the Digital Age blog series.