Empathy. What is empathy? Scientists say that we are born with the capacity for empathetic behaviour, but what do they mean? What does empathy mean? According to the Oxford Dictionary, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is what makes us understand what people are going through, it makes us understand what they are feeling. I believe that the Internet is killing empathy. Ever since the internet has been the go-to place for shopping, news, information and more, doctors and scientists have been coming out saying that the internet is killing empathy, but how can something as important as empathy be killed off by the Internet? Doctors and scientists have different opinions as to why the Internet affects the brain but the main link they share is that the constant exposure is negatively affecting our brains.
So what is the Internet doing to your brain? The research that was done by Zhou in 2011, Yuan in 2011 and Weng in 2013, has shown that the Internet is negatively affecting the way our brain works. The main problem is grey matter atrophy, this means that our grey matter is shrinking or losing tissue, this is very bad, these are parts of the brain that helps us interact with others, the mains parts affected are the frontal lobe, which is responsible for planning, organizing and impulse control, the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses and last but certainly not least, the insula, this part of our brain affects the capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others as well as our ability to integrate physical signals into emotions, this is of particular concern, adolescent brains are still developing and learning, Internet time is interfering with our brains development. In the studies listed, people with internet addiction and people without internet addiction had different amounts of grey matter, scientists found abnormalities in the grey matter of addicted individuals compared to the ones who were not addicted. Grey matter atrophy from internet use is one way how the internet is slowly killing empathy.
The lack of face to face interaction because of the Internet is making us less empathetic. Humans mainly rely on physical signals to understand a person’s emotion, if there is no face to face interaction with that person, it is very hard to empathise with them. A problem that people have been facing is that they have trouble understanding what a person’s emotion is, and since the majority of our conversations are happening online, our brains aren’t learning the physical signals that are used to display emotion. It is hard to empathise with a message someone sent us, it can be hard to understand what they are feeling because letters don’t show emotion, it is still just a block of text, when talking to a person, their facial expressions and also their voice changes to show their emotion, if people spend more time typing instead of talking to others, how will people learn what facial expression means what.
Grey matter atrophy and lack of face to face contact are quite worrying, with face to face contact, we aren’t being exposed to other people’s emotions as much as we should be, we mostly rely on physical cues to understand what they are feeling and to empathise with them. The shrinking of grey matter in our brain also links in with empathy because the insula, which helps with the development of empathy and is also used to understand physical cues, is shrinking, we are not using it as much as we should, and because of the lack of use the insula and other parts of the brain, it is harder for people to empathise with others.
While the Internet is negatively affecting our brains in certain ways, it is hard to deny all the good the internet has brought to our society. The Internet is now making it easier for charities to get donations, more people are exposed to what is happening in other countries and people want to help, others can argue that the internet is actually making us more empathetic, people hear about the latest natural disaster and they donate through the internet.
There are some positives to the Internet but does it outweigh the negatives? The grey matter in our brains are shrinking and it is directly affecting our capacity to empathise with others. Our capability to empathise with others are being underdeveloped, it is hard to empathise with a piece of text someone sent us, and because of the lack of face to face contact, it is now harder to read others emotion to empathise with them. That is why the Internet is killing empathy.
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