Monday, 06 April 2020
"Smile" "Smile"

Are we vaccinated from empathy?

By  Feb 09, 2020

Bad news, sad news, tragic news, terrifying news everywhere. Wherever I click, whatever I watch, the news of somebody losing their life, taking life, being sick, committing a crime pops out. Every now and then there is also some environmental disaster as a bonus. I scroll and scroll, catching just glimpses of darkness combined with news on fashion trends, latest books, celebrity buzz or anything else created to relax the troubled minds of internet consumers.

''I skip the bad news; I don't need that'' are the lyrics of one old Croatian song that are pretty much stuck in my head nowadays. However, it seems impossible to skip the bad news and some sort of defence mechanism turns itself on, and non-consciously, a bit robot-like I scroll through my feed. I almost close my eyes doing it - 500 dead of corona virus, beautiful girl dies in car crash, storm destroys homes, oh wait, what is that, a different way to spice chicken for today's lunch? That seems interesting.

Do we just avoid bad news or do we not care anymore? It's not that I don't care, it's the fact that I care too deeply and being bombed with tragedies from every corner of the internet makes me a bit anxious. In order to ''survive'' all the traumatic articles served on my news feed plate, I need to ignore and jump over some. And I'm not even sure where the problem is – in the fact that there are much more terrifying events nowadays or that many of them, even if they are light, are blown way out of proportion and made over dramatic?

I'm a journalist, but the kind of journalism that I do is much lighter. However, I understand that this click-bait period can be really tempting when it comes to some tragic events and news as, for example, deadly diseases – a bit of drama can get you thousands and thousands of more clicks. But is causing global panic really worth the clicks? And are we, after making many people panic from month to month because of various reasons, which regularly turn out to be false alarms, making readers as cold as stone?

That takes me to another problem – in an era full of drama, many people have seemingly been vaccinated from empathy.

You know them, they are all over the comments of the upsetting articles, making even more disturbing comments. They joke, make fun, argue. There is a time and a place for everything, it's said, but somehow I don't feel that there is a time and a place for making a joke about the death of thousands of people anywhere – especially not below an article bringing that sort of information.

Are people losing their minds or is caring for others just ''so last year''? Why is this time full of tragedies and bad news taking us even further apart, when surely it should be bringing us all closer together? It's hard to tell. Maybe we should teach people how to care again. Maybe we should teach them – again – that if you don't have something nice to say, it's better not to say anything at all. That you need to put yourself in the place of the other person to know how he or she feels. That you don't have to help, but you don't have to additionally hurt somebody. It's easy. Let's not ignore the bad news. Let's feel them. Let's heal each other. It's time to try to make empathy trend.

Ivana Smilovic


Ivana Smilovic or "Smile" is a senior journalist at The Dubrovnik Times, passionate book lover and a self-confessed coffee addict. As a local, she loves to bring news and stories from her native Dubrovnik... This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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