Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

INTEGRATING EMPATHY INTO YOUR DIGITAL LIFE

Cyber-disinhibition. It’s the misalignment of how we treat others online against how we would treat them in real life. That gap and the misalignment is getting stronger and bigger with the digital and social media proliferation.

Sometimes we just let our computer run wild without a second thought, but if we’re really going to share our personal opinions online, we should pause and think about how they will effect other people. And with the plethora of digital options we have for connectivity, we seem to be losing our ability to create deeper, more meaningful connections. But why does this happen? Why is it that not only are we struggling to make authentic connections, but we also end up being so insensitive towards other people? And if we’re on the receiving end of it, how can we react better and protect our emotional sanity? Brene Brown, in her TED talk titled “Call to Courage”, has spoken powerfully about the impact the negative comments had on her first, until she flipped the narrative on its head. You can watch it here.

Brene Brown, in her TED talk titled “Call to Courage”. Picture Credit: Netflix.

In digital interactions, we lack the real-time feedback loop which we get through face to face interactions. The lack of which leaves us empty handed in terms of emotional cues that are much needed for empathy. So when we have very little (or none) to pick up on what the other person feels, we end up reacting solely based on what we see online in the form of text and images. This inability to see and feel the points of view of others in our online interactions leads us to become disrespectful and disregard others’ feelings while we communicate online.

So what do we do?

It’s important for us to take a step back and think about the implications of living our lives virtually. If we don’t develop empathy when communicating online, it may lead to a society that is less empathetic in person as well. But how do we fight the digital rage and be more inclusive, intentional, and empathetic in our digital spheres?

Listen

Be mindful of what people are saying and try not filter it through your own perspective. Focus on the other person’s experience by listening, asking questions, and actively learning about their situation/problem before reacting so they can feel heard and acknowledged.

Share knowledge with others

What you know is valuable – and if you’re not sharing the insights within you, you’re short changing the world. You’re almost like an unscrupulous free-loader in this way; robbing them of creative thought and solutions knowing that there is no one else who has what you have!

Take a moment of reflection

 Don’t post (or react to) anything online without considering the consequences. Ask yourself, ‘do I want to see this spreading like wild fire?’ Maybe think twice about what how it may affect others. You may be setting yourself up on the giving end of a negative experience.

Always give feedback that’s constructive

Critique in a way that it’s respectful as opposed to labeling. Seek feedback too. Consciously considering feedback and being able to accept it is the key in perpetual learning. And do not overshadow criticism with judgement.

Get help when you need it

 Seek out support from family, friends, spiritual advisers as well as professionals who can offer guidance in managing your emotions.

Digital empathy is changing how we relate to one another based on shared knowledge and experiences. This will continue evolving over time due to the fast-paced technological advancements such as AI, AR/VR, IoT etc. So how should we handle our digital lives?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We should be intentional about the content we share and the feedback we give. And if we ground our thoughts in empathy to create more understanding, we can be more attentive to how others might feel. We are all born with the ability to empathize and understand one another’s emotions. But without practicing empathy in the digital age, our society may be at risk of losing this vital skill.

And as technologies evolve over time, let’s not forget what really matters: how we relate to one another based on shared knowledge and experiences.

About the Author

Picture of Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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