How Being Socially Connected May Sap Your Empathy

Feeling socially connected is good for you, both physically and mentally, but in a paradox, it may also make you less empathetic to the plight of others.

While Waytz doesn’t suggest people should limit their feelings of genuine connectedness, he does think there are bounds to our ability to be truly present for others. “Empathy is a fixed resource and when we are spending it on those close to us, we simply have less to spend on others whom we feel less close to,” he says.

But that doesn’t preclude us from rationally recognizing the tendency to dehumanize outsiders, he says, and relying on our moral principles to avoid behaving dishonorably. “I think expanding the circle of empathy has been good for humankind,” he says.

 

By Maia Szalavitz