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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wake Up Wednesday's: Would Instagram & Twitter Have Changed WW II?

Thought for the Day: If there had been instagram pictures and tweets exposing the Nazi's horrific death camps, would the world (including the USA) have waited to enter the WWII? My initial thought was that things would have been different. However, I'm not so sure, making it my Wake Up Wednesday low for the week & food for thought. What do you think? Do Instagram and Twitter make us empathize and feel other people's pain?

As pictures of the chemical attack on a neighborhood in Syria circulate around the internet & the news media, why is public opinion not siding with the president's desire to react to the heinous use of chemical weapons? I know that our nation is war weary, but still have trouble with what is happening.

A study I read last week may shed some light on this question. In the study, which appears in the August issue of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience,* James Coan, a psychology professor in U.VA.'s College of Arts & Sciences, used functional magnetic brain scans to see how the subjects' brains reacted to the potential threat of an electric shock to themselves, someone they cared about or a stranger. "Our self comes to include the people we feel close to," according to Coan. Although our brains are hardwired to feel other people's pain as if it were our own, if we care about the other person, if we do not know them or care about them, we are unmoved by the pain.

Why don't we care about all human being's pain? Are we unable to imagine that the women and children in Syria, could be our family or our children? If someone photo-shopped the images & made them look like the typical American family, or if we knew someone whose home was hit in the attack, would we feel the pain, empathize and demand action?

There is a saying in Judaism, "If you save one life you save the world." If our brains are built to empathize can we learn to expand our empathy to include the entire family of man, not just our race, religion, nation or personal family? I hope for the future of mankind & the world, that we can.

On a brighter note, my Wake Up Moment High of this week is connected to the photo above. An anonymous diner at a restaurant in NC seems to have had empathy for a stranger & found a way to pay it forward.** The note was given to the parents of an 8 year old special needs child, who was having a tough time & was making a scene at the eatery. A waitress was in tears when she delivered the note to them. It came from another customer who witnessed them struggling with their child and paid the couple's dinner tab.

When you see someone in pain, do you empathize or ignore them? What would happen if you imagined yourself in their shoes? What were your wake up moments this week?

*To read more about the research:
L. Beckes, J. A. Coan, K. Hasselmo. Familiarity promotes the blurring of self and other in the neural representation of threat. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2012; 8 (6): 670 DOI: 10.1093/scan/nss046

**More on this story

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