Empathy Exhaustion

Empathy Exhaustion


Do you get tired of seeing all the outrageous headlines on your social media feeds? Does it ever get to the point that there are so many issues to care about that you just want to bury your head in the sand?

Social media feeds have turned into a real downer for me lately, from animal cruelty to fracking, from GMO’s and dying bees to global warming, from rape culture and women’s rights to the staggering autism spectrum diagnoses, from mental health awareness to Amber Alerts, from LGBT rights to the harmful effects of using a cell phone, or consuming artificial sweeteners, or gluten, or processed foods. I am a kind person, really, but I am saturated.

Do you feel this way too?

In the last week I have been criticized publicly on social media for using a microwave (to reheat my tea mostly, but they didn’t bother to ask. The assumption was that I want to give my children cancer) and using a clothes dryer and not hanging my laundry out to dry. I was even preached to about properly washing those raspberries in my garden… don’t I know the harmful effect of chem trails? I know my friends were well intentioned, and I am happy I have such intelligent well informed friends.  But can a woman get a break?

How to cope

When we became a single income family with four children, we made a conscious choice that our family was going to have a specific dollar amount devoted to charity, and the charities were decided on in advance so that when a person with a clipboard knocked on our door representing one of the many organizations in the world that need financial support I could say with conviction and without guilt that I have allocated my donation money for the year but I will consider their organization for next year.

The same applies to your empathy. If you have your priorities listed, and everyone has a right to their own priorities that match their own values and beliefs, you get to choose which public awareness campaign resonates with you. You and I may both feel that our children are priorities in our lives, but for you leaving them a healthy planet may be more important than for me who, while raising three daughters and having an abusive past, concentrates on female empowerment. Both are valid, both need attention.

Sometimes we have to look at things from the view of a jack of all trades and a master of none versus each individual becoming a master of an equally important part of a collective society. My humble solution to dealing with empathy exhaustion is to be passionate about one or two causes, aware of the others, but to not have your thoughts governed by all of the bad in the world. Imagine how great our world could be if we all came together to consciously and deeply focus on actions and solutions to each cause instead of just talking about and skimming the surface of many…

Are you completely overwhelmed with the Outrage Craze and the flavor of the month attitude around public awareness? How do you deal with it?