Social media offers an amazing opportunity for the growth of empathy. In particular, blogs give people the chance to connect with and understand others’ experiences and feelings on a vastly larger scale than ever before.
When I was growing up in the mid-20th Century, there were 2 avenues for increasing empathy: personal experience, or the media: TV, books, newspapers, magazines. Growing up in a small, nearly 100% white town in Minnesota, I didn’t even meet a black person until I moved to a larger suburb in 11th grade. We had one Asian at our school. I made my first Jewish friend when I went to grad school. For anyone in such a situation today (and fortunately, the country, and even my small Minnesota hometown, are far more diverse now), they can connect with a person different from themselves on the Internet.
Let’s say you have a relative in their 20’s who tells you he has cancer. You are stunned, even though he tells you that it is the highly curable kind. Clearly, this is a life-changing event for your relative. How do you relate? How do you begin to understand what he is going through? Of course, you can talk directly with him. But you can also read the blog of a person who is going through a similar situation. A follower of this empathy blog, Roger Lumpp, commented recently that he has a blog that chronicles his journey as he dealt with a cancer diagnosis as a young adult. You can find it at .http://www.liftliving.com/.
Do you want to know what it’s like to be a young stay-at-home mother of a newborn, or a lawyer mother of 3 children, or a father of a teenager, or the parent of a special needs child? There are blogs for all of these, and any other parenting situation you, or someone you know, may find yourself in. A great part of empathy is just understanding–learning about and understanding someone else’s life, feelings, culture, situation, etc. Blogs are perfect for this! Do you have a nephew who has just come out as gay? Do you have a niece who’s getting married to someone outside of your faith? Is your best friend getting divorced after 40 years of marriage? Find a blog, and increase your empathy!
I have a niece who is teaching in Indonesia. Reading her blog has increased my understanding of Indonesian culture. Tell us–what blogs do you read, and how have they increased your empathy?