Oriana Pawlyk

The ability to receive information faster by means of smartphones and the Internet has revolutionized the way we process and exchange knowledge amongst ourselves, but technology has a way of depersonalizing the way we have started talking to one another and even how we feel about what we see.

A Los Angeles TV anchor reporting on the Grammys had a small snafu. She mixed up her words and couldn’t form a coherent sentence. She pretty much spoke gibberish right into the camera.

When people started questioning what happened, some said she had a speech impediment, while others said the poor woman had a stroke. Whatever the conclusion was, she sought medical attention and was reportedly treated. How the public decided to express its “concern” for the reporter was another story.

The video of the newscast spread quite quickly. I even saw it when looking at the morning news on my homepage. When I saw this poor woman trying to speak, I felt that she needed medical attention and actually felt bad for her, while others did not. According to CNN.com, when the video was posted to a UK Telegraph website, 9,388 people “liked” the video and 6,027 people recommended it to Facebook friends.

After this, I decided to research how this video was viewed on YouTube. What I found was that someone had remixed this poor woman trying to speak into a song called “LA Reporter goes Bonkers-Autotune.mp4.” Regardless of the compassionate way this story was reported by news affiliates, the general public saw it as a funny event, turning this unfortunate scene into a social experiment of mockery.

This leads me to question the way we exchange information and the sympathetic nature that humans tend to learn when we are very young. Has that sort of information died out when it comes to viewing videos that go viral like this?

It’s like looking at a car crash on the highway. Do you ask if that person is OK or do you just wait to see how badly hurt they are to tell someone later what you saw? It’s the same thing with Internet stories like this one. How do we put emotion back into the things we view online?

According to a study presented at the British Association for the Advancement of Science Festival in the UK a few years ago, young adults and teenagers do not have the ability to process empathy and guilt like adults do.

Since it isn’t possible to see who “liked” the L.A. reporters’ video or made the YouTube song, it only causes us to question how many of these people were teenagers. I’m sure it was more than a few. 

The way sensitivity to situations develops is crucial to a full, adult understanding of how we can empathize with other human beings. Apart from the neuroscience involved in all of this, there is also another problem on our hands. Technology is probably not helping young adults understand what empathy truly is.

We’re all curious to know what’s going on in the world. That is just human nature. Even if your brain is still in its underdeveloped stages of how to empathize, here’s a hint: it is the ability to be in another person’s shoes and feel what they feel. It’s the ability to recognize someone else’s situation as your own.

Even if you cannot feel it yet, just give it a try for now. Technology is not always to blame for humanity’s lack of sensitivity.