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Empathy and the Internet - Positive potentials vs. risks



Internet enables the exchange of information with incredible speed, allowing at the same time users to share their feelings, thoughts and opinions. This exchange that can be carried out virally spreading the interest about people and events that transcends our geographical and social horizons, represents a civilizational progress when it's not recognized just as technological progress, but also as an increasing process of humanization of man and society. Empathy, which was once reserved for the narrowest community, can now be expanded globally. This optimistic view, however, doesn't take under consideration that human capacity for empathy isn't limitless. Perceptual, cognitive, and emotional overload can lead to saturation and desensitization or dissociation where there is apperception of others, but without any emotional involvement. The paradox of empathy lays within its possibility of being used as a means of control and manipulation: it's then a pure mimicry of empathy. It can serve a better acquaintance, rapprochement and understanding of other people and cultures, or, on the contrary, non-relations such as impersonation, inauthentic communication, and ultimately online harassment. Therefore, the possibility that Internet gives us to be connected to others is less important than the personal attitude that each individual has towards it and to others via the network. Internet isn't empathic by itself, but it can help one's basic empathy, which is developing in vivid interpersonal contacts in the real world, to expand to the remote and sensory unobservable others. In this article we'll analyze the empathic potential of social networks, as well as their features that can narrow or even shut down empathy.
UDC 316.774:004
Tatjana Milivojević; Ivana Ercegovac
Megatrend University, Belgrade, Serbia
Abstract: Internet enables the exchange of information
with incredible speed, allowing at the same time users
to share their feelings, thoughts and opinions. This
exchange that can be carried out virally spreading the
interest about people and events that transcends our
geographical and social horizons, represents a
civilizational progress when it’s not recognized just as
technological progress, but also as an increasing process
of humanization of man and society. Empathy, which
was once reserved for the narrowest community, can
now be expanded globally. This optimistic view,
however, doesn’t take under consideration that human
capacity for empathy isn't limitless. Perceptual,
cognitive, and emotional overload can lead to saturation
and desensitization or dissociation where there is
apperception of others, but without any emotional
involvement. The paradox of empathy lays within its
possibility of being used as a means of control and
manipulation: it’s then a pure mimicry of empathy. It
can serve a better acquaintance, rapprochement and
understanding of other people and cultures, or, on the
contrary, non-relations such as impersonation,
inauthentic communication, and ultimately online
harassment. Therefore, the possibility that Internet
gives us to be connected to others is less important than
the personal attitude that each individual has towards it
and to others via the network. Internet isn't empathic by
itself, but it can help one’s basic empathy, which is
developing in vivid interpersonal contacts in the real
world, to expand to the remote and sensory
unobservable others. In this article we’ll analyze the
empathic potential of social networks, as well as their
features that can narrow or even shut down empathy.
Keywords: empathy, internet, social networking, media
psychology, emotional literacy
Technological products and social forms follow
opposite fundamental principles and paths, which
intersect and separate. Thus their relationship is
paradoxical. Science and technology build bodies of
knowledge „filling“ them with the reflections, theories
and discoveries that preceded them. Einstein, for
example, did not deny Newton, but refined his theory
to suit the theory, measurements and observations of
his time. Science and technology constantly advance,
building new knowledge which allow ever finer and
more adequate understanding of our everyday
environment. It also visibly modifies this environment.
Thanks to the accumulation and continuous
improvement of knowledge, man has been able to
construct sophisticated machines as extensions of his
muscles, memory, senses and body. Technologies
transport us to the other side of the planet in real space,
and virtually everywhere from our homes. We can
criticize them, wanting to slow down or even stop their
progress, but, in the end, there are very few people who
would have the courage to live without them.
In contrast, social forms change very slowly.
Nowadays, we love, hate, adore, help, reject with the
same passion, excitement, joy, desire, suffering, fear,
aversion as a few millennia ago. Human beings
experience and explore the same feelings and relations
towards nature, life, machines and other people. They
are inventive in technology, but much less in the social
sphere. They repeatedly pass through the same beaten
and tortuous tracks, making the same mistakes,
because their emotional and relational constitution
and weaknesses prevent them from capitalizing many
not always pleasant ancestors’ experiences. It is a
disturbing truth that man learns very little from his
own experience, and much less from other’s.
But perhaps there is some good reason for that. It
might be considered encouraging that there is a very
little progress in social and emotional relationships:
how else would we be able to understand our
ancestors and past, to enjoy works of art and other
creative products of earlier eras? Continuity is the
necessary ingredient of individual or collective sense
of identity. If psychical constitution and social
relations followed the same rules and speed as science
and technology, we would be unable to perceive, feel,
understand and build ourselves as historical products
and subjects at he same time.
We need both technological and social forms to live
a full life. Life without one of these two components
would be difficult to sustain, as it is obvious that a co-
construction between man and technology has been
constant from the very appearance of Homo sapiens.
Besides, technologies have always had a significant
impact on social and cultural forms. André Leroi-
Gourhan described this relationship very simply and
shortly: "The hand creates the tool, and the tool
creates the man." (Peretz, 2005 : 187) Therefore,
technology is neither God nor the devil, it help us to
advance, cross important steps and solve new
The Internet, which is a fundamental revolution
based on technology, or more precisely on a coherent
set of technologies, that fundamentally affects our
relationship to knowledge and to other people,
occurred at the beginning of this millennium. It is said
that it is the tool that transfers the sum of individual
intelligences into collective intelligence. The Internet
is primarily a systematic tool, as it realizes the famous
macroscopic transition from the "sum of parts" into
the "whole", dear to gestalt and system theorists.
The Internet’s paradigm is "peer to peer". At the
start the basic principle underlying its construction
was that each networked computer could
communicate with another one. Traditional media,
print, radio and television are in the mode of diffusion,
as they deliver a unique information downward to the
receivers and consumers. The Internet, which
theoretically is a neutral network (at least when
authorities and telecom operators don’t interfere),
issues the required information to whoever is asking
for it. Thus McLuhan’s prediction that we'll go from
the civilization of hot media and cool spectators to the
civilization of cool media and hot spectators, has been
realized. (McLuhan, 1964)
Since the Internet is a tool which allows the
community to function ever more effectively, we are
tempted to believe that it favors empathetic society,
because along with information users also share their
emotions and thoughts. However, this optimistic view
does not take into account that our empathic capacity,
just as the perceptual and cognitive one, is not
unlimited. The psychologist David Lewis has analyzed
the phenomenon of information overload which he
labeled as "Information Fatigue Syndrome". It includes
nervousness, anxiety, poor decision making,
difficulties in memorizing and remembering, reduced
extent and duration of attention, less job satisfaction
and strained relations with associates (Waddington,
1996; Shenk, 1997; Wurman, 1990). Long-lasting
feeling of loss of control due to the excess and rapidity
of information flow can lead some persons to
helplessness, depression and the well-known "burn-
out" syndrome. Then, instead of empathy there is a
dissociation from emotions, which consists in the fact
that one recognizes others' emotions (cognitive
dimension), but avoids identifying with them
(affective dimension) and acting upon them
(behavioral dimension). This is the paradox of
empathy, which is reflected in the fact that it can be
used to manipulate or gain power over others.
Virtual social networks therefore can be used to get
closer to others, who can be perfect strangers, and to
build empathic, deep and lasting relationships with
them. But we can use them to avoid and escape
connecting and involving with others. This means that
the amazing opportunities offered by the Internet to
connect with others, are less important than the
personal connection that each of us establishes with
the Internet itself.
The extensive use of digital social networks
confronts us with the world and experiences of many
of our contemporaries. We are the recipients of their
mental states, fears and desires, we discover their
cultural and political references, artistic preferences,
etc. on a daily basis. It awakens the feeling that we are
the part of a whole, that we belong to a large family of
"friends" similar and different from us at the same
time. Perhaps more than any other human material
and immaterial product, the Internet raises our
awareness about the fact that the world is an
integrated whole of separate units, that mankind is
one through its diversity. Options and opportunities
for numerous contacts have unfathomably expanded
the domain of interpersonal relationships, though
reducing their quality, complexity and depth by
dissolving them in a great number. However, it seems
that lots of contacts, exchanges of ideas and opinions,
make possible the apprehension of a kind of
collectivity, a collective thought, an ever broader and
more inclusive "group spirit". Eventually, this
accustoms us to think of others, to take into account
their existence, their needs and interests, to take an
interest in them, and therefore to cultivate a kind of
empathy which has been reserved for our closest
relatives and friends before the advent of digital social
networking. The very label "friends" on Facebook, one
of the most important social networks, is not
accidental as it implies a spirit of connectedness and
empathy which is expected to rule on networks, but
virtual closeness, the strong sense of empathy for
individuals who never met in real space will awaken
an emotional resonance in us only if we are already
"wired" for empathy. And empathy is born and
develops in the real world, at first in our closest
environment, from where it transfers and expands to
remote and distant people, hence in the virtual world
too. In other words, empathy is inseparable from its
roots and genesis.
„Empathy is generally viewed as a
multidimensional construct and has been described in
the literature as an affective state (affective empathy),
which is the ability to experience and share the
emotions, as well as a cognitive trait (cognitive
empathy), which is the ability to understand the
emotions of others. Regardless of definition, it is
generally confirmed that empathic responsiveness is
positively related to prosocial behaviors and
negatively to bullying.“ (Ang, Goh, 2010 : 388)
There are neurons in the human brain that have
the fascinating ability to react in the same way when
their owner executes an action or when he watches
members of his species performing the same action.
Therefore, these neurons are called "mirror neurons"
or "Gandhi neurons". We are neurophysiologicaly
structured to enter into empathic relationships with
our fellow men. Some authors have compared the
discovery of the mirror neurons in the 90s with the
discovery of DNA in the 50s of the last century. Others
are skeptical and wonder whether this is one of those
fashions that occasionally stir the world of
neurosciences. (Sciamma, 2011) The truth is
somewhere in between. The biological substrate and
mechanism of empathy in higher primates and
humans has been confirmed and sufficiently proven.
Its affective aspect is also undeniable, but it is also
undeniable that human empathy is much more
complex than it appears at the first sight. In this regard
empathy shares the destiny of emotions, which are
often reduced to their physiological and affective
aspects (as in primary emotions that are common to
mammals and men), whereas they contain important
cognitive and behavioral aspects too (the co-called
complex, specifically human emotions).
Digital technology allows a multitude of connected
individuals to observe and enter into a relationship
with more people than ever before in human history.
This may lead us to believe that today Gandhis
neurons are being activated, during only one day, in
previously unimagined frequencies and rhythms. If we
reduced empathy just to its neurophysiological
substrate and motor-mimetic reactions, we would
conclude that the new digital social practices produce
emphatic effects almost mechanically. But the neural
mechanism is not sufficient to convince in the ability
of people to build an empathic society. Empathy is
‘trying on someone else’s shoes“, putting oneself into
his place, seeing with his eyes. But this is contrary to
what makes our own essence. As it means changing
one’s frame of reference, de-centering or de-egotizing,
empathy requires other very complex developmental
abilities and efforts. Changing one’s identity, cultural
framework, beliefs, values, and becoming someone
else, even temporarily, is an extremely demanding
process. "I" does not easily become someone else.
Therefore, empathy requires a considerable
investment of energy, which can result in the burn-out
syndrome, and further in apathy and indifference.
A. The Means to Improve Empathy
If temporarily we put aside personal, biographical,
cultural, socioeconomic and other real factors which
influence the level and quantum of empathy in a
society, and if we focus on technological factors only,
we could follow the authors who predict that a society
able to empathize could be built by using different
software designed in such a way as to encourage
empathy. According to them, the Open Source
software and the supplies, Crowd Sourcing, Co-
Creation, DIY, FabLab etc. are signs that the computer
technology creates new political, social and neo-
industrial practices (Glassman, Kang, 2012). They start
systematically from the bottom where social cohesion,
trust, transparency, involvement and sharing, are the
conditions and the outcome of these procedures at the
same time. In such a case technology would be the
generator of empathy. Empathy would constitute the
juice and honey of the network that one should only
pick up. (Sciamma, 2011)
Lisa Zunshine, a scientist specialized in the analysis
of cognition in literature, found that fiction, more
precisely novels, are the best way to develop empathy.
At the center of her research is the well-known
concept of "theory of mind". The basic idea is that one
of the important functions of our brain is the
elaboration of schemes of behavior of another person,
in order to predict his/her reactions and so act
accordingly (Zunshine, 2003) In short, the "ghost
theory" would be a new definition of empathy. For
example, some scholars think that autism is due to a
defective "theory of spirit." "The theory of the theory
of spirit" is often associated with the theory of the
"mirror neurons", these brain cells whose role is to
promote the ability to imitate the behavior of our
Lisa Zunshine believes that novels, especially the
nineteenth century literature, help readers to
elaborate and apply their theory of mind. "They know
that we know that they know" is an example of
complex mechanisms elaborated by the theory of
mind. On average, our "ghost theory" allows us to go
up to the fourth "level of intentionality": he knows (1)
that I know (2) that she knows (3) that he knows (4).
From the fifth level further, the understanding of a
situation decreases by 60%. However, according to
Zunshine an author like Virginia Woolf's is capable to
juggle with six levels in her novels! (Zunshine, 2003)
Are novels the only or irreplaceable instrument of
elaborating a theory of spirit Patricia Manney (2008)
asks whether we can hope that new media like the
Internet or video games, could take over the torch
from the novels and increase empathy too? It is true
that many games and software systems seem to
promote narcissism, violence and alienate us from one
another, but new programs worthy of attention are
slowly emerging. Some serious games ask players to
perform humanitarian tasks, and there are systems of
virtual reality which simulate a disease helping us to
understand what it's like to live with disabilities1.
Empathy is an important component of social
cohesion and solidarity. However, the frequency of the
use of this word indicates that it is a notion in the
trend, and the task of critical thinking is to submit
trends, including intellectual and scientific ones, to
questioning. Therefore, one must ask why this notion
is so popular nowadays? According to the French
psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Serge Tisseron (2010)
one of the reasons is that people, as primarily social
beings, need and want to believe in empathy. To make
this concept even more desirable some authors, like
Jeremy Rifkin (2009), tend to exaggerate when they
represent empathy as a fantastic altruistic power.
However, current researches in neurophysiology are
explicit: empathy indeed is the ability to perceive the
mental states of others, but not necessarily the
tendency to be preoccupied with them and act upon
them. Thus, according to Tisseron, the first veil of
mystification maintained by Rifkin is removed.
Another reason consists in the belief that digital
technology can enhance the empathic abilities of
mankind. To understand why the mentioned reasons
are essentially mystification, we should start with
distinguishing empathy from other similar notions. In
popular usage the term is being reduced to its
emotional aspect, so it may be perceived as an
ephemeral sentimental phenomenon.
Identifying with people's mental and emotional
states and situation is only the first level of empathy,
which contains three of them. Empathy can be
represented as a pyramid with three "floors", each
higher corresponding to deeper and more meaningful
relationships with fewer people (Tisseron, 2010).
After having presented empathy as a naturally
altruistic force, Tisseron claims that Rifkin encourages
us to believe that digital technology can equally
spontaneously increase the empathic abilities of
mankind. In fact, these technologies can be used to
connect with people as well as to escape from them
(link and leak), and they can serve for the best and for
the worst. Tisseron claims that Rifkin sees only one
half of the problem. These technologies can actually
stimulate communication and empathy, but they can
also cause emotional withdrawal or encourage
manipulation and desire for power. There are several
threats to the empathic ability.
A. Risk of Empathic Overexcitability
The consequence of the pervasiveness of the media
is that information from all over the world are
constantly pouring, so we feel that we are being
permanently enticed to feel empathy for all kinds of
victims. But, on the one hand, our emotional capacities
are not unlimited, and on the other hand, empathy
does not contain only the affective dimension which
makes us sensitive to others' feelings. As was already
mentioned, it has a cognitive dimension too which
consists in understanding the information, and
sometimes a behavioral dimension which calls for
acting towards changing the situation. Due to the
overload, fragmentation and speed of the circulation
of new information, we have great difficulty to
understand the essence and meaning of situations
which are presented to us, and in most cases we can
not do anything concerning them. When there is a
surplus, and no scarcity, of information, the degree of
comprehension falls in proportion with the growth in
amount of information. (Eriksen, 2001)Therefore, the
emotions that overwhelm and disturb us finally may
blunt or exhaust our sensibility and reactivity. In order
to protect ourselves, we withdraw emotionally and so
get into a state contrary to empathy. This phenomenon
has already been described whit the appearance of
mass media, especially television (with an increasing
number of channels), and when terrible scenes of
natural disasters, epidemics, wars, violence, famine
and the like poured from televisions, leading to
desentization and cognitive-affective dissociation as
self-defensive reflexes. In this sense, one could say
that interactive electronic media have a less adverse
effect, because they don’t passivize the users so much,
as they allow them to filter and select the content and
actively react and contribute by expressing their
opinions, support or condemnation or join groups for
action. In both cases, either conventional or digital
mass media, the same principle applies: one should be
critical, selective, wise and prudent in using them. We
become thoughtful and wise in the offline world of real
interactions and relationships where we cannot
disconnect with a single click from discomfortable and
unpleasant situations. These are situations where
some real imperatives and constraints are imposed on
us requiring the use of all our potentials of creativity,
intelligence, (self)transcending and growth.
B. The Stress Produced by New Technologies
What is new, compared to traditional media, is that
the connected and networked everyday life in the new
information-technological environment puts an
increasing pressure on each individual: one needs to
respond to e-mails, mobile phones calls or messages,
to acknowledge and accept new products and software
offered by the Internet or mobile telephony providers,
to adjust to new functionalities, to respond to friends
on Facebook, maintain a social life on Twitter, etc. A
large part of day and night is under (over)stimulation,
imperative and urgency and in these conditions it is
difficult to remain empathetic with people who are
close to us physically. Hence the preconditions for an
empathic relationship in the virtual world are being
lost gradually too.
"Only those who are calm are able to hear" (Pieper,
1998 : 50) When we are busy receiving and sending
messages, we can’t listen actively, and therefore we
can’t hear. But active listening is the unavoidable
component of empathic communication. Here the
verbs "listen" and "hear" are used as an auditory
metaphor which accurately expresses the cognitive
processes at work in written communication too, as it
is at the same time interpersonal and intrapersonal
like other forms of communication. We listen inside of
us the words we read and the way we read influences
the way in which we receive, process and interpret
what we read through our internal filters and
The imperative of rapid reactivity leaves no room
for the thoughts to “breathe" and for the thinking to
function rationally and autonomously. The qualitative
analysis and processing of information is significantly
limited, and there are "blind spots". The metacognitive
processes, which are present in the complex empathy
too, i.e. monitoring our own thoughts and states of
mind, determining their center of gravity and direction,
evaluating and correcting them, are significantly
threatened too. "When there is a surplus, instead of a
lack of information, the ability to see the whole
declines with the increasing amount of information"
(Eriksen, 2001 : 196). The real time of the machines is
the speed of light, and our brains can not process and
analyze all the implications of what is happening in a
fraction of a second (Lévy, Balpe, 1997). In the
instanteism and urgency the crucial ability of
hierarchizing and distinguishing essential from non-
essential, pertinent from non pertinent, is endangered.
Everything seems equally essential and urgent. The
same applies to the capacity of establishing the mental
and affective distance necessary to pull the issues
through cognitive filters in order to structure and
clarify messages and thoughts.
In addition, the readily available and fast digital
interaction, devoid of all the subtle signals we get from
the real environment, i.e. the transmission and
reception of nonverbal cues, the energy fields created
by the physical presence of the interlocutors, the
mutual checking of each one’s perceptions, along with
the option of hiding one’s identity or taking a false one
- all of these are factors that easily lead to the
disinhibition of social and ethical constraints, the
blurring of norms, the reduction of the sense of
responsibility and empathy. Communication breaks
into intermittent, short fragments, separated from the
larger context, which gives the meaning to its parts, as
well as from the consequences which are correctives
to our behaviors and actions. Finally, the ease with
which we can terminate the virtual interaction by a
single click whenever it suits us, without bearing any
consequence that would follow if we suddenly left
(turn around and leave without a word) an interaction
in the real world, can prevent the emergence of
empathy. In other words, we can easily and
comfortably put ourselves out of the conditions which
trigger empathy. The anonymity and invisibility make
easy offensive behaviors (Erjavec and Poler Kovačić,
2013). All of this facilitate the manifestation of
antisocial behaviors, such as the increase in violence
on the networks, known as cyberbullying (Bilić, 2014)
The authors who state that we are entering an era
of empathy probably confuse the word and the
occurrence it denotes. The word empathy had not
existed in the past for a long time, but the empathy
had, the same as it has always been present in animals.
The human race would have disappeared quickly
without it. Therefore, it would be a big mistake to
believe that it occurred only when the word came into
circulation, in the eighteenth century. One might even
say the opposite: the words appear and are being
more frequently used at the moment when things
which are labeled by them are endangered. Dickens’s,
Balzac’s and Zola’s novels describe the transition from
a world in which solidarity was not an empty word
into the world made by the industrial revolution,
where the ideological interpretation of Darwin
justified the principle of fight of each against all. The
word empathy was coined by the Romantics in
response to the new situation and out from nostalgia
and desire to restore what some artists and thinkers of
that time imagined had been the golden age of
Today, the digital revolution and the growth of
underdeveloped countries seem to create a crisis
similar to that of the industrial revolution. The
stability pact, which was patiently built between the
mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth century is broken.
The trend of dismantling families, temporary
relationships and increasing number of divorces leads
to isolation a growing number of people. Furthermore,
the economic uncertainty does not spare anyone, and
the patiently earned pensions disappear in smoke.
There remains only the belief that some kind of
invisible thread connects each individual to others and
that one will always be able to find someone to help
him. In short, there remains only the belief in empathy
and in the fact that we can count on each other just
because we are all members of the same human race.
But this is not only insufficient, it is also illusory, and
yet it becomes increasingly necessary. Psychological,
social and political benefits explain why the word
empathy is so popular today. We need to alleviate our
concerns and fears in a world that is increasingly
complex, deregulated and chaotic. In the epilogue to
Baron-Koen’s book The Psychology of Evil the
psychiatrist Dušan Kecmanović, observes: "The social
and political circumstances that may cause the erosion
of empathy, remained outside the focus of Baron-
Koen’s attention. He does not analyze the social and
political circumstances in which "ordinary people"
cease to cultivate mutual empathy. And most
importantly, Baron-Cohen does not even attempt to
explain the interaction between psychological,
biological, social, and political factors and
circumstances which are at the origin of evil, i.e. the
collapse of empathy (Baron-Koen, 2011 : 186).
Unfortunately, it seems that there is no more
empathy nowadays than in the past. More precisely
nothing enables us to claim that there is more
empathy. And even if there were more, we could not
be able to determine whether it is due to the Internet
and virtual social networking, or to other factors, such
as educational, social, medical, institutional etc. Some
authors mention a slight improvement of social
interactions but they also add the problems and
disadvantages: Concerning civic engagement, our
general results were a slight positive correlation
between using the Internet vs. not (though little effect
of more vs. less) and both community and political
involvement, though explaining only a small amount of
variance. However, as Hobler highlights, there are
many possible disadvantages or biases associated with
online civic involvement, from fragmentation to
inaccuracy to superficial interaction. Concerning social
interaction, again there is a small but positive
correlation between using the Internet and other
forms of social interaction, both online and off.“ (Katz,
Rice, 2002)
On the other hand, it is also true that after the
horrible experiences of collective and large-scale
massacres of the twentieth century, now we know
better where the lack of empathy can take us. We also
know now that empathy can be learned and developed.
There are methods, techniques and games which
prompt us to put ourselves in the place of another
(Tisseron, 2010). Thanks to the progress of
neurosciences and psychology we know now what
empathy is, what it consists of, what its
neurophysiological bases are. We also know that our
brains are structured and wired to be empathic.
Therefore it would be unforgivable not to take into
consideration and develop it from one’s earliest age.
Thus the misuse and abuse of the Internet and social
networks could be reduced, providing these
technologies strongly and affirmatively promote
software, contents and interactions that nurture and
empower our capacities for empathy.
[1] PJ
Manney is one of the most famous transhumanist thinkers.
She has long been the chairperson of Humanity + , but also a
novelist and screenwriter. She wrote the screenplays for
many successful series, such as Hercules and Xena.
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Will the transhuman technologies that our accelerating future promises enable us to increase our empathy to others? Or will their use decrease our ability to understand 'the other' that exists outside our own selves, families, communities and cultures? As the world grows smaller and more connected, humans will grow ever more divergent because of their possession – or not – of a multitude of transhuman technologies, and so the role of empathy grows larger and more important than ever. In theory, sensory/media input stimulates mirror neurons, which enable empathy.Practically, empathy is created through storytelling, which is not only the most successful remote means of creating social empathy, but has actually been the engine of social/cultural liberalization and change. I will demonstrate both the positive and negative affects on empathy through the increasing reliance we have on transhuman media technologies and how I believe storytelling is the key to empathy creation. In Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (Marquez 1988) joins two seemingly opposing concepts – love and sickness – and paradoxically unites them in his story as each enabling the other, as the hero becomes physically ill from his unrequited love and uses the pretense of mortal illness to be united with his love.
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Let me begin with a seemingly nonsensical question.1 When Peter Walsh unexpectedly comes to see Clarissa Dalloway "at eleven o'clock on the morning of the day she [is] giving a party" and, "positively trembling," asks her how she is, "taking both her hands," "kissing both her hands," thinking that "she's grown older," and deciding that he "shan't tell her anything about it... for she's grown older" (40), how do we know that his "trembling" is to be accounted for by his excitement at seeing his Clarissa again after all these years, and not, for instance, by his progressing Parkinson's disease?. © 2010 by The Johns Hopkins University Press. All Rights Reserved.
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The purpose of the study was to examine the association between affective empathy, cognitive empathy, and gender on cyberbullying among adolescents. Participants were 396 adolescents from Singapore with age ranging from 12 to 18 years. Adolescents responded to a survey with scales measuring both affective and cognitive empathy, and cyberbullying behavior. A three-step hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used with cyberbullying scores as the dependent variable. Gender was dummy coded and both affective and cognitive empathy were centered using the sample mean prior to creating interaction terms and entering them into the regression equations. The testing, probing and interpretation of interaction effects followed established statistical procedures. Results from hierarchical multiple regression analysis indicated a significant three-way interaction. At low affective empathy, both boys and girls who also had low cognitive empathy had higher scores on cyberbullying than those who had high cognitive empathy. This pattern of results was similarly found for boys at high affective empathy. However, for girls, high or low levels of cognitive empathy resulted in similar levels of cyberbullying. Implications of these findings include the need for empathy training and the importance of positive caregiver-child relationships in reducing cyberbullying behavior among adolescents.
SUMMARY The question of abusing the opportunity of participatory online journalism through the use of offensive speech has generally been neglected in scholarly research. This study tries to fill this research gap by uncovering the characteristics of offensive speech in comments under online news items as well as journalists' and editors' opinions on offensive speech. A textual analysis of comments containing offensive speech posted under nine news items, written by influential Slovenian journalists in the nine most-visited Slovenian online news media, was combined with semi-structured interviews with journalists and editors. Offensive comments mostly included general attacks on human dignity, attacks based on the supposed political orientation of a journalist, attacks based on the supposed belonging of journalists to social minorities, and attacks based on the political orientation of a media company. Journalists and editors did not share homogenous views on the use of offensive speech in comments. The majority of interviewed journalists cited commentators' anonymity as the main reason for offensive speech. The crucial conclusion of this study was that editors abused the idea of participatory journalism; with the excuse of audience participation, they allowed personal attacks on journalists in comments under news items, as their actual goal was to maximize profits. The reasons for the.
This paper examines the prediction of experiencing and committing cyberbullying on the basis of perception of injustice and care received from the environment. The study involved 481 (51.1% female and 48.9% male) seventh and eighth grade students from Croatian elementary schools. The average age of the respondents was 13.8 years. The questionnaires applied were General information questionnaire; Scale of exposure to peer bullying in virtual world; Scale of frequency of bullying in virtual world; The presence of caring- a protective factor for the individual and the Questionnaire on perception of social injustice. The respondents reported they were more often victims than perpetrators of cyberbullying, and that they perceived care of the adults, but also social injustice, as being in a relatively high level. When it comes to dimensions of social injustice, they perceive inequality before the law, not accepting social norms, and general injustice as being higher than injustice in school and family. The results have shown that students who perceive less care from the environment and greater general injustice are more often perpetrators of cyberbullying. Therefore, a greater perception of social injustice and lack of support from the environment were found to be statistically significant predictors for cyberbullying and cybervictimization. © 2014, Doron Fakultet Politickih Znanosti. All rights reserved.
The Empathic Civilisation: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis
  • J Rifkin
Rifkin, J. (2009) The Empathic Civilisation: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, New York: Tarcher
Les neurones résonnent, les réseaux raisonnent … et inversement
  • D Sciamma
Sciamma, D. (2011) "Les neurones résonnent, les réseaux raisonnent … et inversement", available at (Accessed 24 April 2014)