A Letter to Carr

Dear Mr. Carr,

Hello from the future! Throughout the past two weeks, I have had the pleasure of reading your work and I must say, you sir, are an excellent writer. Although at times, I felt as if your arguments were repetitive, I found myself learning something new about technology in every chapter I read. Your extensive research on the history of technologies and their impact on our brains, not only impressed me, but sparked an intrigue to read more. I found myself reflecting on my own technology usage and whether the losses in concentration and memory were present in myself. During my reflection, I came to the same conclusion that you argued about various times in your book: the internet and technology changes the way I think and do things.

There is, however, one point that I would like to discuss with you. In Chapter 10, A Thing Like Me, something you said stood out to me.

“the more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctively human forms of empathy, compassion, and other emotions.”

At first, when reading this quote, I immediately thought of a term I learned in my Communications class called the bystander effect. The bystander effect is the tendency for individuals to be less likely to help another person in need when other bystanders are present, or believed to be present, as compared to when they are alone. When walking between classes today I noticed how everyone seemed to be on their phones, unbothered by the obstacles or people in front of them. I wondered what would happen if I suddenly dropped to the ground while walking.

bystander-effect
Credit: Latticework of Mental Models: The Bystander Effect http://www.safalniveshak.com/latticework-of-mental-models-the-bystander-effect/

Would anyone look up from their phone to offer me help? Or would they be so distracted by the screen in their hands, that they simply walk by, expecting someone else to step in? While wondering these questions, it is then that I come to agree with your statement that our compassion and empathy may become void with the constant interaction of technology.

But what if our human qualities did not diminish with the use of the internet? What if they actually increased? Because you are stuck in the year 2010, you are not yet aware of the multiple current issues happening in our society today. Some examples actually show that through technology our compassion and empathy for others has expanded. Recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has taken over our media news. During one of the many African-American shootings, one woman actually live streamed the incident. Through her smart phone camera, we were able to witness the tragic event and how it unfolded. This is not the first time that a shooting has been filmed either. I have watched some of these heartbreaking videos, and because of them, my empathy for these victims only grew. My interaction to this technology did not weaken my emotions, it strengthened them.

Even while scrolling through my timeline on Facebook, I become more aware of the multitudes of social and global issues happening in our society. I recently watched a video of the Kiss Cam that took place at the Pro Bowl. While scanning the crowds, the camera stopped on a man and woman couple. To my surprise, the couple looked at each other and then the man turned to another man sitting next to him and kissed him instead. The video continues, highlighting the different forms of love, whether that be between people of the same gender, different religions, or different races. Videos and articles such as these, allow people to take away a message. After watching the video, I felt compassion for those whose love is not seen as the “normal” or “correct” one. Not only did I feel sympathy for these people, but I immediately wanted to alleviate the pain and discrimination that those couples go through.

So yes Mr. Carr, you were right. I am extremely distracted by my technologies, but I have come to realize that although my distraction may sometimes cut me off from the real world, that doesn’t mean that the real world is cut off from me.

Author: Amanda DeFilippis

I am a Sophomore currently studying Communications at the University of Delaware.

6 thoughts on “A Letter to Carr”

  1. First of all, I would like to say that I find your image funny. Everyone is pretending(?) to be compassionate about the crime that is happening outside but they are only expressing their concerns virtually, and doing nothing to actually help.
    Secondly, I feel the same way, as I also found this quote a little striking when I read it. I do not completely agree with it either, as I feel empathy and compassion while scrolling through Facebook reading all these posts and watching all these videos about the discrimination going on

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  2. I agree with Nicole- that is an excellent image.
    People are exposed to a lot through the web. That sometimes it makes people online warriors, very active online but less likely to do things in public. I liked that you drew emphasis to the fact that this does happen, but also that Carr is writing from a time in that has passed and that so much has changed since.

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  3. Is the internet increasing your empathy or your ability to witness more events? Would you still be as empathetic if you didn’t have access to live streaming and other social media feeds? Is the way we consume information nowadays the only way to increasing understanding? What were the old ways of empathetic understands? I have many questions (as you can tell), but I am fascinated by your writing and the things your writing proposes.

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  4. The image you chose serves as a powerful description of the bystander effect. Many people’s first instinct is to go to technology before stepping in to help in a situation. I liked that you talked about the Black Lives Matter movement because I feel that this is a modern example of technology spreading a message.

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  5. *Drops mic* BOOM! Nice response to Carr in the past. I agree, he wouldn’t have known the media blasts and use of technology as a form of social movement. However, your points still stand true. The bit you wrote about the bystander effect is interesting because I’d never learned that, nor really gave it much thought. It’s crazy how psychology works like that. But it’s also crazy how you, and probably so many other people have grown more connected with people (most likely globally) and have been able to show their support from nations away. And your point about social movement only strengthens that connection that people can have with each other through technology. Overall, great response!

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  6. I’m so glad you all enjoyed the picture I chose. I felt as if it not only added to the piece but gave you a visual to the modern day definition of bystander effect that I introduced. Will, I found your questions to be very interesting and worth pondering further. To answer one of them, I don’t know if I would be as empathetic to certain situations if I did not have my social media feeds. As someone who doesn’t watch the news on a regular basis, I rely on my social media to keep me up to date with social issues.

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