The above title might give you the notion thatÂ this post isÂ a movie review byÂ a harelip Jim Carrey fan. It’s not.
Not long ago, in a comment on one of the Afternoon Inquisitions, I made a joke about Twitter being a waste of time that got a lot ofÂ fairly passionate responses. The joke was crass and way over the top, and no doubt that’s what touched the collective nerve of the Twitterers that read Skepchick, butÂ crass and over the top isÂ just what I do. (Though some might argue juvenile and unfunny is just what I do. Witness the harelip joke.)
At any rate, the truth is, I actually find value in Tweets, even though I don’t use the medium myself all that much.
But today I came across this news story, and thought a mention might make for a decent discussion.
Apparently, scientists at the University of Southern California are finding that bombardment of information through media like TV,Â Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sitesÂ could “numb our sense of morality and make us indifferent to human suffering”.
According to the study, brain scans show that humans process and respond quickly to signs of physical pain in others, but take longer to show admiration or compassion. Admiration for virtue or skill, or compassion for physical or social pain are deemed “slow-burn” emotions, taking longer toÂ flower inÂ our gray matter.
And quick, unrelenting bursts of information take our attention away from one point and onto another in rapid-fire succession before slow-burn emotions have time to register (assumingÂ the information warrants such reactions).
So if we are constantly moving on to something else, the scientists at USC suggest our moral compass may be affected. They say we may not register admiration, and that we could actually become numb to human suffering.
I don’t know if this is true or not, but anecdotally, I can say it seems to me that many people I encounter that are addicted to TV shows, or to their Blackberries, or to texting and Tweeting on cell phones are in fact numb to human suffering. They seem to have no clue as toÂ how much they annoy me.