New Fast Company Column: Social Networks and the Brain
This week's Fast Company column is now up: Social Networking and the Brain: Continuous Partial Empathy? asks whether the way we use social networking technologies is ultimately making us better people -- or worse...
Social technologist Linda Stone talks about "continuous partial attention," a condition of modern life where we need to pay ongoing attention to multiple streams of inputs, but can only provide limited degrees of attention to each. Superficially similar to multitasking, the real point of continuous partial attention is that it's continuous--it's not just a workload issue. While we may be able to handle the demands of continuous partial attention for awhile, it eventually becomes exhausting, and even the limited levels of attention suffer.
What Damasio's work suggests to me is that there's a point where an insufficient amount of attention given to a potentially moving encounter means that little or no empathy--compassion or admiration--will result. And while paying attention to another person is important, offering empathy is much more critical. Social numbness simply can't be healthy for a functioning society.
Let me know what you think.