The empathy button

Human nature being what it is, and our feelings being so rooted in often physiologically-based emotions, negative responses tend to aggregate. The book I just finished reading–Damasio’s The Feeling of What Happens–offers neurological, evolutionary, and psychological reasons for the human tendency toward negativity. Dozens of psychological studies concur that humans in general feel more “bad” feelings, and more frequently, than “good” feelings.

Facebook has a “like button,” as do many blog hosting pages (see below for mine!). This ingenious algorithmically-programmed information-gathering software–I hesitate to call it a device, but I guess it is–offers social media users a shortcut to social interaction, a way to show conformity and agreeability among friends, to support a statement or cause, or to indicate pleasure at seeing a photo, work of art, or shared piece of information.

Other sites, such as YouTube, have the additional option to “dislike;” and though I have not read any research supporting this inference, I would speculate that the option to dislike could lead to the generation of more negative feelings. Human nature being what it is.

If social media users cannot take the time to type their feeling-based responses and just need something to click, why not offer a “compassion button?”

I am not serious, of course. The compassion button is internal, and it isn’t an immediate gut reaction for most of us. It moves us from emotions such as anger or ideas like reason and duty to shared human experience. It takes us from simplistic liking or disliking to understanding. It takes more than a mouse click to get to compassion.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
― Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness
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2 comments on “The empathy button

  1. swantsays says:

    I don’t think that “like” must be a positive, nor do I think that “dislike” has to be negative. I refer you to an earlier post of yours on dissent. Is dissent negative or positive?

    In fact, I think we must realize that critical thing (the socratic method?) can(and should) be considered positive thinking. In this context, surely we must allow that whether or not a feeling can be described as positive or negative is entirely subjective- dependent on an evaluation of what the feelings are derived from or directed at.

    The extreme difficulty in taking measurements of “liking” in this amorphous reality should give us some pause about the methodology that claims to measure these emotions dispassionately.

    Like

    • “In this context, surely we must allow that whether or not a feeling can be described as positive or negative is entirely subjective- dependent on an evaluation of what the feelings are derived from or directed at.” –Yes, that is exactly my point. We need understanding of some kind to get to that thinking.

      Like

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