Empathy and online comments

Interesting article. (I did not follow the links to the other article(s)–just read this one.) I’ve wondered before why people leave nasty comments online for people who are clearly in tremendous pain. Is it fear, as this article suggests? I don’t know. It just got me thinking.


This really stuck out to me:

The weight of seeing through the fear and beyond the monster to simply discover yourself is often too terrible for many people to bear. In a world of hard things, it’s the hardest there is.

I think it’s dangerous to tell ourselves that “those people” are monsters and we could never do “something like that.” Human nature is capable of pretty awful things. Telling ourselves that one “kind” of person is the kind who is capable of doing terrible things and another “kind” is not, is, in most cases, self-deception. It’s our choices that make us the kind of person we are, not the kind of person we are that determines whether a given course of action is terrible or not.

I’m not trying to say “Everyone is an awful human being.” Far from it. Just–I think being honest about what we are capable of, as human beings, can, among other things, help us see others as fellow human beings, and not as something wholly different from ourselves.

To me, it’s down to anonimity and distance. People don’t know the people they’re commenting about; plus, they’re usually hundreds (at least) of kilometers apart.

I’ve been thinking about this recently, mostly due to the new Ghostbusters film and how it’s alienating mysoginists AND feminists. The Internet empowered us all… at a cost.

Forget Sex-Ed, people need Net-Ed in schools.

…actually, you know, that’s not a bad idea, now that I come to think of it…

EDIT - I should maybe be clearer so I don’t sound so off-topic. It’s easy to demonize people and call them monsters - especially if you’re trying hard not to see yourself refelcted in them - when those people are far away, you don’t know them, and they don’t know you. I mean, distancing ourselves from people we do not wish to be is what we do every day, but in the internet people feel empowered and emboldened and say and do things they normally wouldn’t.

I’ve seen a lot of people post rashly, and then react in a much more civilized manner when they’re called out for it. It’s like everyone is posting with their id until they’re called out, at which point their ego comes to the fore (yes, my knowledge of Freud is purely of the pop-psychology variety). Net-Ed of some sort from an early age might help alleviate this.

I’ve been watching a lot of School of Life videos lately on YouTube, and they’re good for showing how to make real efforts at empathy without, well, being a doormat. The main channel here, and Relationships (you may want to skip the first) here.

To me it’s a difference between asking “why do they feel this way” and “why ON EARTH (or stronger) do they feel this way” … both are Asking Questions, but one is a bit less loaded and a bit more forgiving. And I think a good example in the current political race is Democrats asking why Republicans would vote for Trump. This, and the linked article, definitely gave me another perspective.

I also remember times I believed something completely wrong because I lashed out, or felt lashed out at. It’s instinct to do that, and sometimes we have to run, but it doesn’t always work.

I think I meant to post here earlier, but sometimes you have nothing more to say than “yep, that makes sense, I can’t REALLY add to that.” But I guess I sort of can: I used to write game guides a lot and sometimes people would say “HOW THE HECK CAN YOU GET THIS WRONG? YOUR GUIDE IS USELESS!” It was hard not to be defensive, but I often took a deep breath, said yes, you’re right, sorry for the error, and I admitted I wished more people would find errors. Sometimes they were really nice back. Sometimes they weren’t. And even though it could take me a day to sit and breathe and figure things out, it was worth it.

Yates’s line in The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” often applies. And it can mean we’re at our best when we are weighing issues and at our worst when we are too sure. But of course that doesn’t mean passion is wrong.