Why We’re Becoming Less Empathetic and What that Means for Our World
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
As infants, long before we can grasp why our parents were teaching us about the importance of being kind to others, empathy was already in our DNA. Babies cry when they see other babies crying; we yawn when we see another person yawning. Most mammals have a level of empathy, especially a mother to her young. We’re programmed with empathy, yet the human race is becoming less empathetic than ever before. As we battle with social injustices, corrupt leaders and false narratives, the ability to truly see something through another’s eyes or walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is being de-programmed and we are becoming desensitized.
WHY ARE WE IGNORING A NATURAL HUMAN INSTINCT?
There’s been a lot of chatter about it in various new studies, but there seems to be a never-ending, unquenchable thirst for success that is consuming us and drowning out other equally important pieces of life. Pressure is higher than ever before. School debts are looming. Burnout is inevitable. Millennials and Gen Zers are struggling with anxiety and depression on an alarmingly high scale. We scroll through page after page of glorified living on Instagram and wonder why we’re not meeting these unrealistic standards of life. Jessica got engaged today. Mark just bought a house! So, we put our heads down, desperately clawing towards a promotion, a better relationship, another level higher.
Self centered? Arguably yes, but how else are we supposed to live? If you’re not getting ahead, John at the cubicle next to yours will get the promotion you had been hoping for.
As we work blindly towards our personal versions of success, we’re neglecting little pieces of life that can have a huge impact on our empathy levels and keep us more balanced. Reading, for example, has dropped significantly in younger generations and without it, we aren’t exposed to a broader range of life scenarios in our early years. As an introduction to even more variations of human interaction, reading subtly educates developing brains and widens the lens on emotions, like empathy.
Group involvement has taken on a new meaning. The purpose seems to be less about meeting new friends or learning a new hobby than it is about making a connection or adding to a resume. Group involvement is now yet another attempt at achievement. There is tremendous pressure on kids to sign up for lots of extracurricular activities in an attempt to look better or accomplish more than a classmate to get that college slot. Even charitable work has become something of a requirement for that college application, not got the goal of helping others.
COMPARISON WILL KILL YOU
The race for success doesn’t seem to be slowing down and as much as we don’t like to admit it, we’re constantly sizing ourselves up against our peers to see who is “more successful” in their endeavors. Caught up in these comparisons, our anxiety skyrockets and our empathy levels plummet as we hyper focus on ourselves and fail to see the trials and tribulations of others, often far worse than ours. We’ve become so comfortable isolating ourselves to work on our own achievements that we’ve lost a very fundamental piece of what it means to be human.
It’s important to challenge ourselves to have goals and strive towards new levels of success, but need it be all-consuming? Empathy keeps our society healthy and supportive; it enhances communication and soothes differences of opinions. At Prezence, we encourage you to look beyond yourself with a sense of purpose for the greater good of all. Look around your community—try doing one thing each day for someone else. More likely than not, your moments of empathy and understanding will be the ones that are the most satisfying of all.