Social Media and the loss of empathy

Posted: October 5, 2014 in Mediated Lives

I am connected to the world through social media, actually I am not just connected, I am totally immersed in it. Through social media such as Facebook and Selfies, people should know more about me than ever before – who I am, what I’ve been doing, where I’ve been. My ‘mediated self’ is fascinating to me but increasingly, I wonder if it’s really good for me. Am I trivialising what I do and where I go, with sound bite posts and self-indulgent comments?

Facebook at 14 was a revelation to me. I created my profile, added friends and photos and watched as the number of friends I had grew from 10 to over 1000. But then I began looking at how many friends my friends had – why did some have so many more than me? And why did they look as if they were having so much more fun than me in their photos? What was at first a fun and interesting way to keep in touch and share experiences, became a heavy weight of social acceptance and peer pressure. I am not alone in thinking this. A recent study by Kross (2013) found that the more people used Facebook, the worse their subjective well-being was. It would appear that the very reason we join Facebook, to feel part of something and share experiences, is in fact doing the opposite – making us more sad and lonely! Kross found that “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result – it undermines it.”

Figure 1

Figure 1

This was certainly my experience as a young teenager. Facebook made me unhappy as I tried to ‘keep up’ with my friends. Linked to that was the jealousy and envy I felt when reading friend’s posts and comments. Research by Krasnova et al (2013) found that envy on facebook was a hidden threat to users’ life satisfaction. Their results “offer an explanation to the ever increasing wave of self-presentation and narcissism behaviour witnessed on SNSs – a phenomenon we refer to as the self-promotion-envy cycle.” I continued to bow down to the almost addictive use of Facebook (there is now a recognised Facebook Addictive Disorder – FAD), until a couple of years ago when I began to question rather than accept this form of social interaction.

The final straw with Facebook was a post when a friend died which just had a ‘sad face’. A whole life summed up with an emoticon! The trivial nature of this form of social interaction changed my opinion of it or at least what it had made us become. Social media such has Facebook has a place in social interaction and there are benefits to it, but it is perhaps at the cost of our sensitivity to others, and an acceptance of who we are as human beings, confident in our self-worth irrespective of our Facebook status.

sad faceBibliography

Figure 1

Rutledge,P – Media Psychology Research Centre


Kross E et al Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults



Krasnova H, Wenninger H, Widjaja T, Buxmann P – Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction? (2013)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s