A new University of Michigan study says that such old-fashioned traditions as “being nice” and “kindness to others” may be things of the past, scoffed at and probably mocked mercilessly by today’s apparently vicious college grads. According to Sara Konrath, a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, “College kids today are about 40 percent lower in empathy than their counterparts of 20 or 30 years ago,” with the biggest drop after the year 2000.
Compared to college students of the late 1970s, the study found, college students today are less likely to agree with statements such as “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective” and “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.”
Why this unfortunate turn of events? Cue up the usual suspects: social media that you can easily tune out when you don’t want to deal with those “friends,” insane expectations of success spurred by “celebrity reality TV,” and a generally nastier-than-it-used-to-be social environment. And self-absorption.
“College students today may be so busy worrying about themselves and their own issues that they don’t have time to spend empathizing with others, or at least perceive such time to be limited,” said researcher Edward O’Brien.
This does not bode well.
See how empathetic you are here! (Despite what you may think, we got 80 percent empathetic, by the way. You have to wonder how mind-bogglingly stupid the people were who didn’t know enough to just fake the answers.)