Who Have I Become? How Digital Technology Changes Communication

“…some of the things they do to others on social media that they would not say to the other person’s face.”

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Is an Increasingly Digital Lifestyle Changing Us? Long-standing Singer/Songwriter Sheryl Crow certainly thinks so. In multiple interviews this week, including Associated Press article “Sheryl Crow Argues for Return to Empathy in Her New Album” by Kristen M. Hall, printed April 16th in the Williamsport Sun Gazette, a newspaper local to Williamsport, PA.

Sheryl Crow
Source: Twitter @SherylCrow

Crow stated she was “upset” about the way “technology has changed the conversation” regarding elections, politics, and general approaches to communication. She goes on to emphasize that, “Now we have this forum for haters to come out and say the worst thing you could possibly say to someone without having the experience of the reaction.”

This is a topic I briefly touched on in my first blog post: “Think Before You Post: Showing Respect Online.” I want to examine this topic a little more closely. I agree with Sheryl Crow’s observations for the most part. I think that people say some of the things they do to others on social media that they would not say to the other person’s face. Crow believes that this is because we cannot see the person’s reaction when they see these posts. Crow goes on to say that “we have become a society without empathy and compassion.” According to dictionary.com, empathy involves the “psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” I believe that people sometimes lose track of empathy online because it is easier to separate the online post from the human being who made the post whenever you cannot see or hear that person.

Crow is encouraging time away from digital devices in order to help alleviate people’s lack of empathy. I do not believe that it is practical or realistic to ask all of society to significantly decrease their digital interactions during an era during which a lot of digital technologies are just being born. Rather than taking this extreme measure, I believe that is reasonable to ask people across the United States and the rest of the world, to consider how their posts and videos might be interpreted by anyone who might potentially view them. If it helps people to imagine that they are encountering their post for the first time as someone else, then I would recommend that as well.

Crow with guitar
Source: Twitter @SherylCrow

Though it is not reasonable to unplug entirely as previous generations have done, it may be reasonable to take temporary breaks from certain digital devices or websites if they increase stress levels too much. People could also set barriers by not using digital technologies or social media during family dinners or important events, as well as during most of summer vacation or spiritual endeavors such as church or meditation sessions.