According to new data from a recent survey conducted by the United Way of the National Capital Area, more than half of all Americans – 57% – said that misinformation on social media has influenced their empathy levels. A further 27% added that they changed the source of their news due to empathy burning out.
Respondents from all generations agreed that Facebook was the most important social media platform contributing to empathy burnout, except for Gen Z.
According to the researchers, empathy burnout takes shape when “a person is regularly expending much of their energy – emotional, physical, mental – to care for others to the point that they themselves feel exhausted.” These feelings are common among many people.
Nedelka Philips, Senior Vice President for Marketing and Fundraising at United Way NCA, explained that she asked the participants questions regarding their feelings about recent news stories, compassion fatigue symptoms, and what coping methods they use to get relief. “Over 50% of Americans feel that misinformation from social media has affected their empathy.”
The fact that so many people now rely on social media as a news source is certainly adding to the problem – in part because it is filled with so much misinformation and even disinformation.
Rob Enderle from the Enderle Group suggested that Qanon is a way to create an army of individuals who deeply believe lies and will fight for their belief.
Enderle warned that this is creating conflict because of the weak foundation beneath these falsehoods. This insecurity creates an insecurity with the ones who propose them. Enderle also cautioned that the insecurity leads to increased anger and escalated violence when the beliefs are challenged. Social media platforms have become cesspools for misbehaviors and abuse. Enderle warned that Facebook and Social Media’s over-focus on revenue has created a dangerous world. This is contrary to the natural tendency for humanity to be more open and cooperative over time.
Perhaps today, thanks to social media, you can also fool a lot of people a lot of the time – and the platforms are profiting from it.
Enderle said that “In essence, social media helps to weaponize gullible persons, not to achieve any type of broad objective but to maximize revenue with a cost of creating far more hostile or unsafe world.” Enderle stated that Facebook and the other social media services which allow such behavior to increase short-term revenues and profits, are posing a serious threat to humanity. This will be a disaster for our species and companies like Facebook.
What Has Happened to Social?
The social element is becoming an ever more important part of “social media”. Instead, platforms are becoming echo chambers for opinion.
Unintended consequences are a constant part of the technology evolution. Interestingly, for a medium that started out as a force for being more social – it now often seems like it’s tilting towards the ‘dark-side,’ and being a platform for being anti-social.” Susan Schreiner, C4 Trends. C4 Trends’ Susan Schreiner said, “It has become a hotbed of hate and fear-mongering. The way that people interact in real life is becoming more crude through social media. As if the dark side of people is hiding behind social media.
While political intransigence and lack of collegiality, the pandemic, and the fear of uncertainty are contributing factors – social media makes it easy to attack someone or to act as a bully, without responsibility or consequence, warned Schreiner. “There’s a rebellion against respect – and the attitude of ‘I can disagree, but do it politely,'”
In most social media networks, politeness is sadly lacking.
Schreiner stated that social media allows for people to narcissism, their worst traits and personality types to just “hang out” without caring about others. “Social media gives permission for’me’ or ‘I” to have precedence over others and not considering or respecting their feelings or opinions.”
Despite all the negativity on social media, there is still hope. But it takes effort.
“It is no longer sufficient to simply click on Facebook or Twitter, and then blindly take whatever it says at face value. Schreiner said that it’s different from the days of broadcast, where one could trust on channels three and experts like Walter Cronkite.”
It comes down to personal interactions versus the mob on some levels. It’s similar to tabloid headlines. The New York TimesOder The Washington PostShe warned. “While we saw lots of fear-mongering during the pandemic, we also saw on social media the kindness among strangers – with members in neighborhood groups helping each other or members in certain types of Facebook groups offering emotional support to those alone.”