Everything and everyone is connected. Nothing stands alone.
Have you ever yawned after watching someone yawn? Or felt hungry while watching someone eat? Or perhaps even felt overwhelmed during an emotional scene in a movie?
Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience and behavioral psychology may have some insight on our ability to feel and relate to other people. These findings have created shock-waves and quite a bit of controversy.
Neurons are essential to our nervous systems as they convey stimuli to and from the brain. There are over 100 billion neurons in an adult brain. Each neuron has the capacity to create over 1,000-10,000 combinations. The total permutations are greater than the elementary particles of the known universe.
In the 1980s and 1990s neuropsychologists Glacomo Rizzolati, Giuseppe di Pellegrino, Luciano Fadiga, Leonardo Fogassi and Vittorio Gallase at the University of Parma, placed electrodes in the ventral premotor cortex of the macaque monkey to study Motor Neurons (Neurons that are specialized in the control of hand and mouth actions like, taking hold of an object and manipulating it). During the experiment, the researchers allowed the monkeys to reach for pieces of food, and recorded neural activity in the monkey’s brain, They found that a subset of motor neurons fired when the monkey observed a person picking up a piece of food.
These neurons were aptly named Mirror Neurons for their ability to recognize and mirror the experience in the observer’s brain. By 2002 it was found that in both humans and monkeys, the mirror system also responds to mouth actions, facial gestures and the sound of actions.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging(fMRI) of the brain shows that mirror neurons occupy a wider network in the brain. Including the somatosensory cortex, which receives all sensory input from the body.
When someone touches your hand you have a conscious awareness of it and a physical sensation due to the touch and pain receptors of the skin.
Now, if you see someone being touched on the hand, the touch and pain receptors of your skin sends a feedback signal back to the brain saying that the event is not occurring to your hand, This prevents you (the observer) from consciously experiencing the event. But there is nothing conclusive about emotions being reprimanded in the process. In other words you (the observer) can feel the experience as it were happening to you despite it happening to someone else.
Empathy is the key to building and sustaining any relationship. Be it between family, friends, romantic or professional. Empathy taps into the very essence of our being.
From a social dynamics perspective this discovery could be the holy grail of understanding how we as humans show care, compassion and interact with each other, to help shape the cognitive and emotive identity of “The Self” and the group/civilization as a whole. It would explain why an individual would have an association bias and commitment consistency bias to the people they chose to be around. As they would have the same likes, dislikes, interests or disinterests.
To contemplate why we have the ability to Empathize has philosophical notions and is subject to personal interpretation and belief. But the fact remains, Every single human being is programmed with the ability to show empathy, and we understand how it works, and its profound effects on an individual’s capability to care, show compassion and love to others.
EMPATHY AND SOCIAL MEDIA
The implications of empathy on social media are no different to empathy in general. Empathy has the ability to break down barriers between people, races, ages, companies and customers.
Posts that have high empathy, yield a higher sharebility, and have immense potential to go viral. If companies adopt sincere empathy to their online and offline marketing efforts, They would see a higher reach, higher impressions, higher engagement, higher trust and love. And overall higher social proof of the company.
To understand how you can use empathy in your online efforts might be the wrong question to ask. You will first need to understand
-What your product/service is to the customer?
-How your customer feels about your product/service?
And most importantly Why?
Why are you doing it? Are you doing it because you love your product or service? Are you doing it for profit? Or because you want to help mankind in some way shape or form.
From a humanitarian perspective empathy on social media has enabled policy change and reforms, surfaced inefficiencies in our ways of governance, urged companies to change their business models from profit to educate & empower, raise awareness and funds for good causes while bringing us together when a nation is hit by natural and unnatural disasters.
IN THE ABSENCE OF EMPATHY
There has been a rise in depression, social mental disorders, and suicide over the decade.
A study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that Major depression in the U.S among teens has increased by 52% and 63% in young adults over the last year. Deaths from suicide increased by 56% among 18-19 year olds between 2008-2017
It is impossible to pin point exactly what has caused this rise. As the data can only point out correlations not causes. But there are overlapping trends to strongly suggest that the rise in smartphone and social media use and its affects on dopamine regulation within the brain are contributing factors.
This is a really good opportunity for everyone to re-look at your profile on social media and see how you, your product/service or company can help those in your circles and groups to raise empathy.
In the grand scheme of things, whoever you are and wherever you come from does not matter. We are all connected. We are one.