Trolling. Cyberbullying. Revenge porn. Violence. Hate speech. Sometimes it seems the internet has turned empathy into an endangered species.
But the power of connection can also be used to promote kindness and compassion. We asked some of Family Zone’s leading cyber experts for their top tips for making the internet a kinder place - starting right now.
If it seems to you as if simple kindness is in shorter supply than it used to be - well, that’s because it is, explains Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki.
Author of The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World, Zaki points to evidence that empathy has been declining precipitously since the internet entered our lives.
In fact, according to his analysis, we are now more than 75% less empathic than our counterparts 30 years ago.
Zaki and other researchers have found that communication through the internet has the effect of dehumanising the person on the other side of the exchange.
We are now more than 75% less empathetic than our counterparts 30 years ago.
When we interact online, we can’t see the usual cues - the nonverbal feedback - that indicate to us how the other person is reacting. That makes it easier to be insensitive or downright mean. We fail to listen attentively - or at all.
“Sometimes one of the most important things is to cue ourselves in for one moment and recognize that there’s a full person on the other side of this interaction,” Zaki advises.
He notes too that tapping into the internet’s enormous potential for connecting us has an obvious upside too. Because research shows that empathy is contagious - and communicating compassion and kindness online can help spread it.
But how? Three of Family Zone’s leading cyber experts offer their top tips.
Top tips from cyber experts
Martine Oglethorpe, The Modern Parent
Be an upstander, not a bystander. Look out for those online who may not be having a good time. Give them a positive comment or approach them in real life if you know them and offer them support.
Jordan Foster, ySafe
Be the change you want to see. There are plenty of adults who make negative or attacking remarks online (just refer to any comment section of a news article on Facebook!). What message is this sending to our kids? That attacking random strangers online is ok?
Dr. Kristy Goodwin
Don't jump to conclusions based on one post, image or comment. Remember, social media is an iceberg - you only see the tip of what's happening in someone's life and there's often a lot happening under the surface.
How do you promote empathy on social media? We’d love to hear your ideas. Join us on Facebook or Instagram today!