Selects the ten best photos from the thousand or so that the average patron takes each day to post on Instagram. Digitally adds six-dozen flowers, a fourth kid, a seventh abdominal muscle, or a Tesla to envy porn. Adds fresh pepper to food porn. (In the case of patrons who do not document their own lives comprehensively, refurbished photos from the Instagram accounts of people who have died, or who are technically alive but no longer on social media, can be used.)
It is worth expanding on the difference between empathy and compassion, because some of empathy’s biggest fans are confused on this point and think that the only force that can motivate kindness is empathetic arousal. But this is mistaken. Imagine that the child of a close friend has drowned. A highly empathetic response would be to feel what your friend feels, to experience, as much as you can, the terrible sorrow and pain. In contrast, compassion involves concern and love for your friend, and the desire and motivation to help, but it need not involve mirroring your friend’s anguish.
Or consider long-distance charity. It is conceivable, I suppose, that someone who hears about the plight of starving children might actually go through the empathetic exercise of imagining what it is like to starve to death. But this empathetic distress surely isn’t necessary for charitable giving. A compassionate person might value others’ lives in the abstract, and, recognizing the misery caused by starvation, be motivated to act accordingly.
Summing up, compassionate helping is good for you and for others. But empathetic distress is destructive of the individual in the long run."
Let me just say, I do not agree with Bloom’s overall view of empathy. But his inclination to question our assumptions around it is interesting. Are there rules for empathy? Are there vary levels of accepting or appropriate empathy?
When it is better to be compassionate versus empathetic?
For most of my childhood (until those pesky teenage years), TV was a regulated commodity. We could only watch TV Friday through Sunday. Even then, on weekends, there was no TV after 12pm.
When the internet came along, so came the rules. Only for homework (yeah right) and no more that an hour of AIM and AOL (Enter the passive aggressive away message).
Sure, when I was younger, I hated this. Parents were lame. Now, with hindsight being 20/20, I truly appreciate what my parents did. They taught me to disconnect.
A study was released recently about the benefits of disconnecting for children, but walking around my neighborhood and seeing the high school and college students milling around in packs, I wonder if they can really do that. Their phones are glued to their hands, internet acronyms and lingo have invaded their linguistics and there are too many damn selfies.
These kids most likely see disconnecting as punishment or something that is to be avoided. it would prevent them from some of their primary means of communication and other tools they use. But, as I was reminded by my neighbor Pete (a neighborhood staple whose family has lived on my street for over a century), they are missing out on the people around them.
It is a little scary to think that perhaps the next generation will be missing a certain set of social skills. Their technology-mediated skills will be superior, but what about their person-to-person social skills? What about their ability to create and explore without technology?
Or, are we all just supposed to accept that a world without technology is an archaic way of thinking? Is disconnecting a dated notion?