Does the rapid stream of news that constant digital connectedness brings us (via social networks and the likes of twitter) make us less compassionate? Does it mess with our moral compass?
That is the suggestion of a report from a NeuroScience Group.
And I'm sure they have reams of evidence to support this. And please do investigate, by all means.
But my common sense nags me to question this. Compassion is a powerfully human thing - it's part of what drives our social selves - compassion for others brings us together to help each other. And it has ever been so, since the first family units gathered together for protection and to achieve things together.
The argument made (as is often the case) is that we are replacing real face-to-face experiences with digital ones.
But that isn't how it works, is it? We use social media, digital means, to augment our human relationships, not to replace them.
They enable long distance ones, they reinforce local ones, they lead to physical meetings with physical people, which then reinforce what may have started as purely digital relationships.
The argument also assumes that our digital represenations of ourselves are less human than our 'real' selves - a whole other area for philosophical debate touched on in yesterday's post and the comments on it.
So I thought I'd offer some relatively hard evidence to counter this.
Intuitively, using social media should make us more human, not less (the clue is the in the name here). So here's my evidence to support that claim:
Over the course of my career I have been asked to complete several psychological personality profiling tests. They are always based on Jungian principles.
Traditionally I would turn out Red/Blue on the many and various colour wheels these generate. For those not in the know that roughly translates as creative, leader, director, (in the main) with a good dose of detail, logic, calm, introspection. There's lots of negative stuff about arrogance and aggression in that red/blue stuff too which - much like star signs, we like to ignore about ourselves. But you get the general picture. (the four-humours style diagram shown here is from MrDynamics.com )
But that was in the days before I immersed myself in social media - in constant connectness to others.
I retested four years ago - not long after my daughter was born. This time around I came out much more yellow/red. Yellow people are more sociable and demonstrative. I put that down to becoming a father - making me a softer (more rounded?) individual. Less competitive/demanding/strong-willed etc
Four years on and I have just retested. And after all this time deeply ingrained in social media I've turned out to be massively yellow-green (caring, encouraging, sharing... sound anything like the kind of things we all enjoy about social media, to you?)
It's not neuroscientific research, but it is real, it is testable, and it does offer some evidence that the long term use of social media strengthens some really important human attributes: compassion, very much included.
Caring, encouraging, sharing, sociable. Surely these are the nobler aspects of humanity?
If these are nurtured by the use of social media then I have to conclude social media makes the world a better more moral and ultimately more human place.
Carry on tweeting everyone - your moral compass is safe.