Updated: Aug 25, 2019
One casualty of today’s digital world is empathy. With the anonymity and distance created via the data lines of the internet, it is becoming increasingly easier to voice our opinions on every topic and conversation imaginable without any thought or consideration of what our post might do on the other end of the line. We can just say whatever we want and no longer need to worry about the potential consequence or effect.
I typically read the comments on product reviews, blog postings and tutorials, and it often saddens me when I see negative, callous shots being taken from fellow readers toward the authors and each other. Many of these comments would rarely, if ever, get shared if the reader was actually face-to-face with the other person. The veil of the internet is giving individuals a sense of anonymous courage where they feel that they can say anything, and everything, that comes to mind regardless of a consideration of feelings.
The root cause of this is the low level of empathy in the digital realm. Without consequences, we don’t feel the need to hold ourselves back and sensor our language from saying things that might be hurtful. Empathy a key trait in effectively interacting with others in the real world, why should the virtual world be any different? Empathy creates the feelings by which we identify with others and their emotional well-being. When we have to look someone in the eye, empathy is what we lean on to share our communication in a way that can be honest, but not hurtful.
Empathy creates tolerance. Tolerance is accepting others for who they are, how they think, how they act, and most importantly, how they feel. Without empathy and tolerance in our communication, we just become a world filled with virtual trolls who seek out conflict and chaos.
Here is a solution: “Stop. Think. Feel.”
Before succumbing to the temptation to post a comment that might incite a controversial response, stop and think about what you are about to type. Is it something that you would actually say to someone if they were standing in front of you? Is it something that would advance an intelligent conversation or would it just be noise?
Then “feel”. Would it be something that is making a specific, important point or would it just be hurtful? How would others perceive the point? How would you feel after you made the point? Would you feel that you were helping the world around you or would you feel that you were only helping yourself or your own agenda?
One of the best benefits of the internet is the ability to quickly and easily provide communication on things that can help others. Feedback and product reviews help others make better product choices and service decisions. We definitely need to keep sharing our honest thoughts and real experiences. We also need to ensure that we are not creating Importance Gaps by delivering communication in ways that build walls. Rather, we need to build the bridges that increase our ability to connect with the real people on the other end of the internet. This can be done in a way that shows we care and that we empathize and have a tolerance for other people’s opinions, thoughts, actions, and feelings.