Finding empathy on Facebook and in faith

October 7th, 2015

In September, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the popular social media platform is working on a “dislike” button. Zuckerberg says users want “the ability to express empathy. Not every moment [about which people post online] is a good moment.”

Will the “dislike” button be used as Zuckerberg envisions? Professor Andrea Forte of Drexel University says people “may use [it] to express some negative emotions … [but mainly] to express mild disapproval, or … solidarity when someone posts about a … death or a loss.” But writer Beulah Maud Devaney worries the button will help cyberbullies: “It will take abusers a matter of minutes to scroll through every post on a user’s page, clicking dislike and adding to the overwhelming onslaught of negativity that many victims experience” online.

Many chances for online empathy

Youth may not find Facebook as exciting as they once did, but 71 percent still use it, according to Pew Research. Most teens (the same percentage, 71 percent) also use other social media networks, such as Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. On these media, emojis (small ideograms such as “smiley faces” or gold stars), tags and hashtags (#love, #cute, #cool, and so on), retweeting and commenting all give users opportunity to engage content, and those who’ve shared it, emotionally.

Pew found that 92 percent of teens go online daily; 24 percent say they are online “almost constantly.” All this time on social media means youth have plenty of opportunity to show empathy —or not.

Divine “dislikes”

The word empathy doesn’t appear in Scripture, but the concept pervades images of how God’s people are called to live. Acts of solidarity and compassion can communicate that we really do “feel for” others, including those who are unlike us. Christian empathy is rooted in God’s empathy for us. God “dislikes” anything that hurts people or diminishes human life. Our empathetic treatment of others mirrors and points to God’s care for all people and should characterize our behavior, both online and offline.

Question of the day: How do you show empathy on social media?
Focal Scriptures: Luke 10:25-27; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Hebrews 13:1-3

For a complete lesson on this topic visit LinC.

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