The Internet, Empathy, and Cross-Cultural Competence

I came across an interesting article the other day about how the internet may be killing empathy. The internet has become so embedded in our lives in North America (nearly 80% of the population uses it), that browsing, social networking, and watching videos are daily occurrences. Children have become especially adept at multi-tasking and amassing huge amounts of time using technology, and much of their time on the internet is spent watching videos.

All of this time can lead to desensitization and a lack of ability to actually develop empathy.

There is a general feeling that today’s kids “get it” in terms of diversity. They’ve been exposed to more differences at earlier ages. They seem more tolerant and understanding of people than even those just one generation ahead of them.

But if they can’t develop empathy, can they truly “get it” in terms of cross-cultural competence?

They may have the knowledge, but will they be able to build the skills necessary to effectively interact with others who are culturally different from them and bridge gaps in understanding?

Empathy is a key skill in cross-cultural competence. Empathy helps us to:

  • Shift our thinking,
  • See things from other perspectives; and
  • Imagine thoughts and feelings from another person’s point of view.

Having empathy involves not only understanding the beliefs and desires of others, it also involves the ability to recognize facial expressions and the feelings those expressions may be linked to.

If using the internet is causing us to become desensitized to other human’s emotions, can we ever really develop cross-cultural competence?

Technology is key to business becoming more global. But as we build business, how do we keep the human component in technology? How do we continue to build empathy instead of lose it? And what happens to cross-cultural competence?

Join me on social  media and let me know your thoughts.


© 2017, Susan McCuistion

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