Thursday, October 28, 2010

Has social media killed empathy?

Last week, a colleague sent me a USA today article that raised the question of whether social media has killed empathy. My answer: it hasn't.

Through online discussion forums and social networks, I have made new friends, connected with our profession's thought leaders, and kept in touch with classmates, neighbors and family with more frequency than my schedule would otherwise allow. Sure, there are those who live online to the exclusion of connecting with people in real life, but that's hardly a new phenomenon. (Raise your hand if know any video game addicts or workaholics.)

I view social media as an amazing means for enriching real-life relationships, particularly in higher education. Our audiences invest some of the best years of their lives on our campuses, and social networks now make it easier to maintain those relationships—both with the institution and among classmates—for a lifetime. And for those who are preparing to join our community, accepted student groups and networks can engage students long before the official orientation process begins.

The blurring of professional and personal spheres online can also increase empathy in ways we could never expect. Over the past two months, I have watched a colleague's story unfold on Twitter as her two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer and started experimental treatments. I have been deeply touched by her tale, and I know many others have as well. Our higher ed marketing peers have supported her through prayer and fundraising. Ironic how one can feel such empathy for someone only known through social media. (Read Andrew Careaga's blog post to read little Sydney's story and find out how you can help.)

Speaking of Andrew, the Educational Marketing Group is looking for his replacement as International Brand Master. If you want to nominate a current higher educational branding professional, EMG is accepting nominations through Dec. 15, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. You're absolutely correct, Davina. It's been amazing to see the outpouring of help for the Stoltz family since I posted the appeal on Oct. 1. The human spirit and compassion is alive and well.