Today's College Kids Lack Empathy

According to the latest studies we found on MSNBC, today’s college kids lack empathy, which makes them less likeable, and makes it more difficult for them to feel connected to other people. In fact, today’s students are half as likely to “get” the emotions of others than they did 25 years ago. Or to feel sorry when something bad happens to somebody else.

Why is this happening? Sara Konrath is with the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. She says that a growing emphasis on “self” goes hand-in-hand with downgrading the value of others, and it’s partly because of the internet. The average 18-year-old spends almost a full workday connected – using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device. The ones who are the most connected are also most likely to report feeling bored or sad. They’re also more likely to get in trouble, and not get along well with their parents. In other words, the more connected they are, the more disconnected they feel.

Also, more kids are growing up playing violent videogames, and numerous studies show that exposure to violent videogames makes people less likely to respond to the pain of others. Most college kids have tons of “friends” online – whom they can tune out at will. So, they’re more likely to tune out in real life when they don’t feel like responding to other people’s problems. So, how can you tell if you’re an empathetic person? See if these phrases match your feelings:

  • “When I see someone being taken advantage of, I feel kind of protective toward them.”
  • “When I’m upset with someone, I usually try to put myself in their shoes for awhile.”
  • “Before I criticize someone, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place.”

If most of these statements describe you, congrats! – you’re an empathetic person. If they don’t describe you, it’s time to start making more connections. The best way, according to the book How We Choose To Be Happy is to look other people in the eye, listen to what they’re saying, keep your mouth shut, and be open to their influence. You’re not always right and you don’t always know the answers, and accepting that will lead to a more satisfying life. 

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