Era of Empathy Overkill

All of the Facebook-type, virtue-signaling empathizers need to read this commentary on empathy.

Empathy does indeed have a very dark side, especially in an era of social media overkill. Quote from the article: “Empathy is a riddle,” Breithaupt says. While it can enrich our lives, Breithaupt says our ability to identify with others’ feelings can also fuel polarization, spark violence and motivate dysfunctional behavior in relationships…”

Breithaupt directs an Experimental Human Studies lab at Indiana University. He notes how empathy is self-serving, with the empathizer benefitting the most from the empathetic action. He also pointed to the concept of vampiristic empathy, wherein “people want to manipulate the people they empathize with so that they can, through them, experience the world in such a way that they really enjoy it.” This quote from the article also stands out a bit:

For example, if you want the victims to say ‘thank you.’ You may even want to keep the people you help in that position of inferior victim because it can sustain your feeling of being a hero.

This fits in perfectly with the folks on Facebook who, when a critical event occurs (mass shooting or other horrible event creating innocent victims), they are the first to the front of the empathy line, exclaiming their virtue and unselfishness, and shouting their empathy, caring, and humanity from the rooftops. And they hammer away at it on Facebook to garner cheers from the chorus for this behavior.

One point not discussed in this edited interview is how the hyper-empathizers – the hero wannabes on that dark side – collectively band together on social media to condemn and shame individuals who have the ‘appearance’ of not having “enough” empathy. We’re called “crazy,” “mean,” “horrible,” yada, yada. When in fact it is they who are philosophically unhinged.

Thus, every time I see folks chiding others about their “lack of empathy” or “feelings” on social media, my red light immediately clicks on. I’ll watch their anger rise in concert with any and all challenges to their so-called empathy. There’s always been something very wrong about this, in my mind, and this article provides some very good reflections on the abuse and overkill of empathy.


7:41 am on April 17, 2019