In the last five years, cyber-bullying has seen a drastic increase, leaving parents, teachers, and communities concerned. Online communication has created a space for people to openly speak their minds, which means they can vent anonymously with little fear of repercussion. Without having to see another human’s emotional feedback loop, some individuals feel emboldened to speak hatefully, create fear and spread mistrust. More than ever, we need to cultivate empathy as a society.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It goes beyond simply feeling bad for someone’s misfortune. Instead, it entails mentally climbing into that person’s shoes to share in the pain and seek solutions together. Empathy helps us to become less judgmental, less frustrated, less angry and less disappointed. It teaches us patience and helps us gain a broader perspective of the world. When we empathize, we realize there are elements of connection with others—that we are not that different after all. And of course, when we empathize with others, they are more likely to empathize with us in return.
If we want empathy to stem the tide of online negativity, we need to fight fire with fire, by using online social influence to overpower the loud, squeaky wheels on message boards. Leveraging social influence is about increasing the strength and number of sources for a particular idea, like creating empathy. For instance, by simply watching and positively rating good content on the web, you send a powerful message to content creators and increase its visibility for others. To that end, here are some of my favorite online outlets for increasing empathy:
For all ages:
Apps and websites such as these remind us that technology can be a magnifier, a force for positive change—but only if we choose to make that happen. The same technology that is used for bullying can now be used to lend a helping hand or a listening ear. For all the distractions, dangers and frustrations that current technologies bring into our lives, they can also be used for our highest purposes. This is the future of happiness, and it’s up to us to create it.