Virtual empathy: Positive and negative impacts of going online upon empathy in young adults

People can show empathic responses to others online, but at the same time empathy has been declining in young people since technology-based communication has become prevalent. Displacement of face-to-face time by online activities would be expected to negatively impact empathic skills.


Since there is little direct empirical research on this topic, the present study sought to determine the nature of the relationship between Internet usage and empathy. More than 1000 young adults completed an anonymous online questionnaire that asked about daily media usage, real-world empathy, virtual empathy, social support and demographic information. The results showed that, in general, going online had very small negative impacts upon cognitive and affective real-world empathy and actually improved time spent in face-to-face communication.