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Media Empathy: Nurtured or Shattered?

My research has me exploring digital mediums of storytelling. The different formats of each encourage varying attitudes. Brandon Stanton’s blog, Humans of New York, shares glimpse’s of both the average not-so-average New Yorker’s story. Whether it’s a tidbit or a relatively lengthy narrative, thoughts and experiences are semi-anonymously shared along with a photograph of the person. While this medium helps people relate to one another, some would argue that there is a negative to believing all humans are the same at the core. In his article “The Problem with Humans of New York,” Gawker blogger Daniel D’Addario argues that all of Stanton’s stories are decontextualized and thus not an accurate representative of an individual, but a fulfillment of stereotypes.

Story-sharing specific domains like MyLifeIsAverage where users post their “average” day-to-day experiences. The approach to the site is silly, light-hearted, and harmless, the purpose being for people to relate to others’ peculiar daily encounters. This is a huge contrast to Formspring.me.com, which is more so used to satisfy malevolent intents. Vulgar, aggressive, offensive questions are posted on profiles, seemingly for the entertainment of throwing needles at the balloons of another’s ego.

Both empathy shattering and empathy cultivating mediums exist online. I suppose my research and writing will help me determine which is more prevalent.

One comment

  1. Sounds like a great thesis. Let me know if there’s anything I can help with. I also recommend posting flyers about it on campus, to get students to submit. Psychology students usually advertise this way for other students on campus to come participate in their experiment.

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