Recently, there has been an idea going around that technology is killing kindness. That although technology is often meant to bring people closer together, it might actually be working to disconnect us, particularly when it comes to children.
It has been said that children today are far less empathetic than past generations and that this loss of compassion is to blame on technology. Media is consumed up to three times more by children today than ever before. Sara Konrath from the University of Michigan says that this extended exposure to media (particularly violent media) makes kids less likely to be able to relate to the pain of others. In the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, John K Mullens stated that children can have their brains “rewired”- they are potentially missing facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, which may lead them to miss signs of insincerity in a person. Some of these kids are getting caught up in a disconnected lifestyle where they are less able to detect and respond to the feelings of others.
But is it just children who are being rewired and made less attuned to the emotions of others, or is the issue larger than that? Research by John K. Mullens has also shown college graduates are entering the workplace but may make an early exit due to their lack of empathy towards valued clients and coworkers.
Children can be a wonderful source of innocence, inspiration and love. Their energy and desire for living can be an energy booster and even motivation to do good! Our youth can be the seeds of change, and drivers of positive ideas if we allow them to be. However we have to be cautious not to undermine their natural inclination to good and to care for others by allowing them to disconnect from those around them. In the face of an ever advancing technological society, empathy and a spirit of giving back must be fostered in young people to be carried forward into adulthood.
Hafsat Abiola once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being in the world”. We all share the world together. We share time and we share space and we share the air that we breathe. When we consider how connected and interdependent we all truly are, the value of contribution is clear. But how do we do that? How do we encourage these values?
Although it may seem daunting to “make a difference” it’s actually quite simple…start small! Start by doing a good deed once a day, once a week, or once a month. Whatever works for you. You’d be surprised at all the little things that can make a big difference! It is not necessary to force anything when giving back; just do the things that feel natural and suite your interests and schedule. From simply picking up garbage lying around on the street or complimenting someone on what they are wearing, to an on-going commitment with a volunteer organization, the feeling of happiness you will get from helping make the world a better place is addictive!
Stopping the growth of technology and its scope is impossible, but taking time to “smell the roses” and open our eyes to the people around you that need your help is not! Start in your own life, and become a living example for the next generation of what really matters.