How much time spent on your phone is dedicated to checking out your social media accounts? What exactly is the reason behind it? Is it to be up to date with the latest news or perhaps it’s something much more superficial that drains your soul? What is social media empathy?
Over the last few decades, social media usage has increased at an alarming rate. 15 years ago, there were only 11% of people in the US actively using social media, but by 2021, the percentage is at 72%.
While every human is capable of empathy — the ability to sense other people’s emotions and understand what they might be thinking or feeling, the rise of technology and social media has lessened our sense of this trait. The reason? Well, there is just too much information we have to process each day, which is emotionally draining. This leads to suppression of emotion that can destroy our sense of empathy.
Is social media making us less empathetic, and is there a way to prevent this? Keep reading this article to understand some ways to be aware of the effects of social media and to learn the right approach to ensure that social media increases empathy, not the other way around.
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Creating real human connections
According to Dr Helen Riess, the author of “The Empathy Effect”, every time we choose to communicate through a text message, email or social media over the real face-to-face conversation, many neurological keys for feeling empathy are missing.
Practising socialising on social media more and more can harm our sense of feelings. Therefore, we need to put even more emphasis on our real-life interactions to heighten our empathetic senses. Some ways to do this:
- Making eye contact while talking to someone.
- Paying attention to another person’s tone of voice.
- Trying to understand another person’s expressions.
- Actively reading other people’s body language.
These all are important emotional cues, which are cut away from us when interacting through our screens. In the end, if we haven’t practised understanding one another in a long time, it will create immense difficulties and miscommunications in our everyday lives.
How to show social media empathy?
So if we are cut away from so many emotional cues which help us develop a sense of empathy, how is it possible to show empathy on social media? Here are 3 key elements to use when being active on social media.
1. Avoid comparing yourself to others
Everything is not as it seems on social media. If you find yourself scrolling through your Instagram, Facebook or any other feed with a tinge of jealousy or conceit, take a step back as this is a warning sign.
Consuming content, which makes you feel anything but uplifting can put your empathy at risk. Whichever the reason for the comparison (e.g. status, identity, etc.), it can create a sense of threat, and experiencing this on an everyday basis makes us less empathetic towards the people we compare ourselves to.
2. Use social media to build stronger connections
Once we are aware of the social struggles social media puts us in — the inability to grasp the other person’s immediate feelings, we can be mindful when engaging on social media.
- Use video chat to catch up with friends and family who are far away.
- Post supportive content to strengthen the sense of community and create meaningful connections.
- Use social media to widen your knowledge in different areas.
- Develop a humanistic outlook. Don’t judge people based on their social media profiles and what they say on the internet. Try to really understand people who have different backgrounds. Why might be they doing and saying things they do?
3. Knowingly use empathy in online conflicts
Things can get heated pretty quickly on social media. Before saying anything you will regret a few minutes later, take a moment to reflect. Impersonal conflicts can make us feel threatened. This leads us to anger and defensiveness.
These are all feelings, which are all very self-centric. Taking a break and thinking about how to express our feelings in a way that wouldn’t put blame on anyone can be beneficial and actually lead the conversation somewhere.
Once you are able to understand your own thoughts and feelings, you will be much more understanding about other people and the information you are getting from them.
Next time when you are in a conflict, instead of saying that you feel attacked, try explaining what makes you feel this way. For example, say that you feel that the conversation is making you feel uneasy and sad, or scared. The possibility is, you will be able to change the heated conversation into a valuable connection.
Brands’ way of showing empathy on social media
Let’s be honest. A lot of information on social media is provided by different brands and this is the content we interact with every day. In fact, 18% of US adults made a purchase through Facebook in 2020.
Facebook and empathy can actually go hand in hand very well if businesses consciously take an empathetic approach in their branding and use empathy in customer service, too.
If you too wish your brand to be more empathetic and create real connections with customers, take note of the following steps.
Inspire your customers
Don’t just sell. Posts and ads with the only purpose to rush people to buy things and buy these things fast can actually create negative feelings in people such as fear of missing out as well as being threatened.
Often people cannot put these emotions into words, but in the long run, it might affect your branding negatively. Instead, try to inspire your customers and motivate them to take interest in your products.
- Share other people’s positive experiences. But don’t exaggerate. These stories need to be relatable.
- Use visuals. Visuals displaying other people that customers can relate to have a positive impact. Therefore, think about diversity and don’t make your product or service seem like an out of reach opportunity for people with less possibilities.
- Be human. Too formal approach might scare people off. Use real, common language and add a touch of personality to it.
Be curious about your customers
As with human connections, listening is an important element in brand-customer relationships. Monitor what people are saying about you on social media, and don’t be put off by negative comments but take this as an opportunity to learn.
By understanding what your customers are feeling, you will be able to provide better experiences for them on social media and through your customer service. Curiosity can very well be shown in interactions in the comments, through personal support inquiries, and also in the content, you share.
You could give it a go at posting content that asks people to share their experiences with your brand in the comments section. This way, you can also create a feeling of community among your followers.
Be authentic and show vulnerability
Being authentic and showing your vulnerability is an excellent way to practice showing empathy in your communications. Everybody has bad days and makes mistakes. We hardly ever see it on social media, especially from brands. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Share some stories of the challenges that your team faces or what hardships your brand’s founders have had to go through to get where they are today. But remember to stay true and inspire through the stories to really bond with your customers.
There’s no substitute for real-word relationships
If we consciously practise empathy in our social media interactions we are able to nurture our relationships. So instead of letting technology and social media take the better of us, keep the aforementioned ideas in mind.
This way, we can take the matter into our own hands and use social media to increase our sense of empathy, not the other way around.