What is empathy?
In basic terms, ’empathy’ is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
The impact of digital technologies on empathy?
The positives of digital technologies
The rapid integration of digital technologies in our lives has had many positive outcomes. Digital technologies enable us to communicate with friends and family anywhere in the world and at any time of the day through websites, apps and software including social media, messaging, texting, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones.
Other positives include (but not limited to):
- Flexible work arrangements.
- Online learning.
- Using GPS maps for navigation.
The negatives of digital technologies
Unfotunately, with these positives, come negatives too, including (but not limited to):
- Trolling – when someone makes a deliberatively provocative comment or post and waits for people to take the bait.
- Catfishing – when someone pretends to be someone they’re not by using social media to create a false identity, usually to defraud or scam someone else.
- Cyberbullying – when someone uses technology to bully a person with the intent to hurt or intimidate them.
The use of digital technologies can also be considered a contributor to a decline in empathy. The pressure to succeed combined with digital technologies have resulted in an increase in self promotion, personal branding, and self interest. With an inward focus, we have neglected and excluded the feelings of others, the needs of others and the concerns of others. Empathy is on the decline.
Why is empathy so important?
Empathy is a fundamental human trait required to communicate and connect with other people. Empathy relies on interpreting immediate feedback of someone else’s facial expressions and body language. Empathy is critical to accurately interpreting, understanding and communicating emotions with others.
The use of digital technologies impacts upon this vital skill. Text based messages can be interpreted incorrectly and even with the use of video tools, individuals have the ability to mute and turn off their video. Regardless, it’s never quite the same as face-to-face communication.
Empathy is essential for people to understand each other. Empathy has positive effects on individuals and society.
For individuals, empathic people tend to have greater wellbeing and happier and healthier lives.
For society, empathy is the first step in doing right by others.
Importantly, we all have the capacity for empathy and it is something that can be taught.
What is The Empathy Initiative?
The Empathy Initiative aims to develop empathy in students and to inspire them to take action and transform themselves from bystanders to ‘upstanders’ in bullying and cyberbullying situations.
The Empathy Initiative provides students with strategies for becoming upstanders thereby helping students develop the metacognitive skill of learning when and how to use particular strategies to manage themselves in these situations. Students learn to recognise others’ feelings, know how and when to assist others, and where they can receive additional support and assistance.
The ultimate goal of The Empathy Initiative is to reverse the decline in empathy.
Australian Curriculum Connections
The Empathy Initiative links to the Australian Curriculum through:
- Humanities and Social Sciences
- Health and Physical Education
- Personal and Social Capability
- Ethical Understanding Capability
- Critical and Creative Thinking Capability
- Intercultural Understanding Capability
- Information and Communication Technology Capability
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