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Is your personal empathy being depleated by the media?

Empathy is important, here’s why.

I check out the headlines of the few major newspapers that still reach my island whenever I am at the store. They are soon to be discontinued because of printing being outsourced and not able to be delivered on the day of relevance. I ‘m sure they will contain numerous stories in which they will continue to report statistics of more unemployment, more outsourcing of our jobs to foregin countries. But for now, they are still here. Yesterday’s cover story featured a huge front page photo of a man’s bloody and beaten face. I turned away from it, the headline was about “why we pay to watch men fight.”

Call me old fashioned, if you will, but one of the reasons I prefer newspapers and journalism for news stories as opposed to TV is that they are not zooming in and sensationalizing the gory details of every story. Radio news works for me too. I want to know what happened, but I don’t want to feel it in my heart that much. I don’t want to lose sleep over it because maybe I’m one of the few people left who still feel empathy. I also don’t want to lose this quality being de sensitized to the experience of my fellow human beings by constantly watching and looking at gory photos of a wounded fellow person and then having to expunge it from my consciousness in order to unwind from the experiance, to feel good and be effective in my place in the world, regardless of what horrible tragedy happens elsewhere that I can do nothing to stop or help.

Is this empathy? When I can’t help but look at a picture of a wounded person and for a split second imagine vividly what it may feel like to be them. Its a tiny little charge of pain and horror that it adds to my day, to my consciousness, that must later be removed. I wonder why this emotion continues to exist at odds with what I see all around me. It seems like empathy just brings you down, makes you unable to handle what everyone else is into, makes you long for some kind of sheltered life instead of fully participating. So you may ask why is empathy important?
I have techniques to remove the horror from the core of my being where it penetrates when I sympathize or empathize with another human being. It takes a while. I have to do some Tai Chi, walk in nature, meditate, but why do I need this in order to deal with the world?

A lot of people are not so aware, so sensitive. They would think me extreme. People watch gory news everyday, some the moment they wake up, some just before bed. The newspaper published that gruesome painful photo because its competing with the internet where news stories zoom in on the pain and the horror in great detail. This is not a movie with special effects, this is a real human being’s suffering. In fact, the mass appeal of movies declines in favor of reality tv, documentries showing it all, and sensational daily news.

I think the newspaper could have a decent market for their product if they refrained from sensationalizing the gory details of pain and suffering on their front page, if they stood out from all the internet media and tv media showing us the same old gruesome photos. There’s got to be others like me, who want to save their empathy for the people they actually encounter in real life and not have it colonized by the media through the effort of trying to keep yourself informed. If I see pain and suffering, I want my empathy in tact to motivate me to help the other person like the decent human being that I really am inside. That is why I do not want to become desensitized to violence and suffering by seeing it so much that I have to tune it out in order not to be adversely affected.

I heard about a phenomena that is happening more and more at the scenes of disasters and accidents. People with their smart phones in there taking photos, not heroically rescuing the people caught in the tragic situation, but taking selfies with themselves standing next to the carnage, the disaster of the day, trivialized to a background by having TV news on three times a day on the regular channels and 24/7 on the news channels. Everyone wants to be the first to post it on Face book, be a reality TV star or something. This is a serious loss of a valuable part of human nature. Empathy evolved for a reason. The emotional sting when you see blood, or when you hear screaming, or when you look at tragedy is meant to motivate behavior. The ability to tune it out is meant for a reason too, such as what happens in times of wars when it becomes necessary to survive. This is not meant to be our everyday experience from the first awareness of childhood, tuning out our natural born empathy in order to participate in a world increasingly bombarding us with real horrific haunting images colonizing our brains where the urge to help people should be.
I’m not suggesting to tune out all news. We do need to know about the violence and tragedy occurring in the world, along with other developments. But we do not need to encounter it in a way that uses up a limited and precious resource within us. That’s why I prefer radio news. It takes 5 minutes to inform me of what would take an hour to watch on TV. That way I can have a concept of the big picture of whats happening without invading the space of a single person’s moment of trauma. That way I can avoid having my precious limited supply of empathy depleted on strangers far away that I will never be able to help, and have it intact to motivate me into action for the people whom I encounter in real life. This is why I say that empathy must be treated as a precious resource within us by being selective, instead of de sensitized.

Feel free to leave comments if this interests you. Its catagorized in Homegrown Health and Homegrown Success, because part of being a successful human being is having some empathy, otherwise you’d just be one more psycopath.

Your empathy is precious, don’t let it be colonized or stolen from your heart and brain.

Here is another article for further reading about Empathy and what it is on another blog