Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Lack of Empathy Leads to Uncivil Discourse

A panel discussion at Duquesne University focused on the tough task of teaching empathy in the digital age.

(l-r) Duquesne University President Ken Gormley, Rey Junco, Dr. Sara Konrath, Jeffery A. Hall - Photos by Ian Hurley

Scroll through the comments on most news articles to see the number of ad hominem attacks and sometimes downright cruel things people say to one another from behind their computer screens or smartphones. Thanks to technology and social media, we’re more connected than ever before and yet we struggle to have civil conversations.

Where did our empathy go, and can we use technology to get it back?

During “Technology, Social Media and Civil Discourse,” a forum presented by Duquesne University President Ken Gormley, communication and technology experts unpacked that question and more and provided suggestions for how to better have civil discourses.

Rey Junco, a psychologist and education and social media researcher, explored the online disinhibition effect where people say things online they normally wouldn’t in person. He cites lack of empathy and the inability to tell tone online as catalysts for this phenomenon and suggests teaching empathy in schools to combat this problem.

“Not everyone has won the empathy lottery, but empathy is changeable; it’s possible to teach it,” said Dr. Sara Konrath, a social psychologist and expert on the science of empathy and kindness. Empathy can be improved by practicing active listening, looking for similarities rather than differences, and by learning to read emotions better, she said.

University of Kansas Communication Studies professor Jeffery A. Hall urged everyone to decide who matters in their life, who gets their attention when technology makes you available at all times as a way of mitigating stress, developing healthier relationships, and being a better communicator.

(l-r) Betsy Benson, Julie Grant, Julian Roth

In the second portion of the forum, Pittsburgh Magazine publisher Betsy Benson talked social media and civil discourse with Julie Grant of KDKA-TV and Julian Routh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Grant suggested everyone understand their First Amendment rights to better contribute to civil discourse. Sometimes, people say inflammatory or controversial statements that could bring ridicule and criticism, and they will claim free speech without fully understanding the concept. 

Prior to her work for KDKA, Grant served as an Assistant District Attorney for Allegheny County and shared a catchphrase her former office created:  “You can’t erase cyberspace.”

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

House of the Week: South Side Townhouse with Spectacular Views

This end-unit townhouse with incredible, panoramic views of Downtown is sure to take your breath away.

Local Business Owner Pays it Forward

Ed Meyer overcame challenges with the help of others — now he gives back to those in the same situation.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

PIT Turns to CMU to Make Airport Smartest in the World

The airport authority will use minds at CMU to discover ways to make it easier for passengers to get from the terminal’s parking lots to their seat on the plane.

Celebrate August Wilson's Birthday With a King and a Block Party

The ninth play in the 10-part Pittsburgh Cycle will open outside at the August Wilson House.

First Look: Soju in Garfield

Simon Chough’s Korean restaurant is six years in the making.

I Feel Pretty Isn't What You're Expecting (And That's Okay)

Reviews of "I Feel Pretty" and "Super Troopers 2," plus a rundown of events at the Pittsburgh Underground Film Festival.

Get Your Clark Bars While You Can – They May Soon Be Gone

Production of Pittsburgh native candy bar may halt if the current producer cannot find a new buyer.

Coughlin's Law Wants To Be Your Mount Washington Destination

Notes on the busy new bar and restaurant near Grandview Avenue.

The 2018 Return of the Burgh-y Mother's Day Gift Guide

It's back! From the dog mom to the working mom, we've got you covered with these locally made must-haves.

Patriot Games Can’t Diminish Harrison’s Place in Steelers History

James Harrison intimidated opposing players in a way not seen since the days of Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene.

Bruno Sammartino Dies; Wrestling's Longtime Champ Was 82

The Italian-born star died surrounded by family in his adopted home of Pittsburgh.

It’s Road Repaving Season in Pittsburgh. Is Your Street on the List?

The City of Pittsburgh has finalized its street paving plan for 2018. You’re one click away from finding out if your street or route to work is on the list.

Three Rivers Champion: James S. Perry

Perry combined his love for athletics and volunteerism to create a youth athletic association that at its height provided organized softball and baseball to more than 350 boys and girls.

Three Rivers Art Festival Brings Music and New Art For 59th Summer

Point State Park, Gateway Center and sites across the Cultural District will host free, world-class art and events during this year’s 10-day festival.

Sound of Silence: Century III to be Sold at Sheriff's Sale

The nearly 40-year-old mall encounters foreclosure once again. Will this sale be the end of the line?

Pittsburgh Riverlife President & CEO Vivien Li Resigns

Li is returning to Boston to be with family members who are in declining health.

The Best Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Wedding Decor

From new decor in the home to donations to charity, check out these ways to repurpose leftover wedding decor.