People are changing. All over the world, things that would have been unacceptable a few decades ago are now the norm. Why? One possible reason is that we are losing the ability to relate to each other. We can look at someone in pain and correctly identify that person’s emotion, but we are losing the ability to feel their pain. This is borne out by studies that show empathy has declined in both genders in the last few decades.
One possible reason for this decline is the increase in online communication. When we speak to people face to face, many of us naturally tune in to the emotions of the person we are speaking to. We don’t have the same experience online.
To take a very simple example, have you ever driven down a motorway and passed a car accident? Police and ambulances are on the scene so you drive past but even that one quick glimpse of tragedy affects most people. Our first reaction is to drive slower, then we worry about the people involved. We mention it to family and friends and often check online to see if there were any survivors. If we regularly pass the location where the accident happened, it could be a very long time before we forget what we saw. How often have people told you about accidents they witnessed years earlier?
Compare that to watching an accident on the news. If you have no reason to believe it could have affected you personally, you’ve probably completely forgotten about it within a few minutes.
Experts believe there are two ways to combat the decline in empathy. One is to have more face to face communication. The other is to read fiction.
You’ve probably heard “a reader lives a thousand lives”. A reader also experiences millions of emotions. We live through the characters and we experience our own emotions in settings that are completely alien to us. That’s why books can make us laugh and cry. It’s also why books set in completely alien worlds, for example, the Hunger Games or the Handmaid’s Tale, can have such a profound emotional impact.
If all of this has given you the desire to read fiction, you can check out my thriller ‘Girl Targeted’ here.