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Lonelyheart807's avatar

Are we as society becoming less empathetic to those around us?

Asked by Lonelyheart807 (2310points) December 9th, 2016

Maybe it’s just my perception, but that seems to be the case more and more these days. Many of the small courtesies that people used to show each other seem to be gone, or at least on their way out the door.

Here’s an example…since I moved out at the tender age of 22 (oh so many years ago), I have always lived in an apartment or other rental situation, where there needs to be some give and take with those around you. You are not in your own separate house, and I have always felt that one needs to consider those living in close proximity to you with consideration. Last night, at 11:45 pm, as I turned out the light and was trying to fall asleep, my neighbor directly above me decided she just had to vacuum her bedroom directly above me.

Really? Was the president coming to visit at midnight or something? Seems to me if you’re having company that late, chances are that you are on a level of familiarity with them such that they’re probably not caring if your house is spotless.

I never vacuum after 9 pm (usually no later than 8 pm), and not before 9 am in the morning…not because there are rules against it in the lease, but just because it is the considerate thing to do. Maybe I’m naive, but I seem to remember a time when other people showed the same sort of courtesies.

So what do you think? Is this pattern of “selfishness” growing?

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25 Answers

rojo's avatar

Unfortunately, I believe we are becoming more and more self-serving putting our own wants and needs above that of community or others.

Mariah's avatar

Your conclusion only holds if we assume that nobody in the generation before us would ever, ever vacuum late at night. Rude people have always been around, we have a tendency to look at the past with some gold-plated nostalgia where we gloss over the shit that was around back then, too.

Every generation consistently thinks the one after it is going to throw the world into chaos, yet here we stand as a species, still alive and kicking.

The internet, as much as can be said negative about it because of the lack of compassion people feel for others when they don’t have a face to put with the words, connects us in ways that increases our empathy. 50 years ago the idea of what life is like for a person in Indonesia or even Texas would have merely been an abstract thought to me; today I can talk to those people and understand their unique struggles on a level never before possible. That’s real progress in empathy.

I’m trying to focus on the good in the world in these times. I just had surgery, and I’m young, so I don’t look like I need a seat on the subway. I purchased a cane to make my disability visible. No selfishness from my fellow subway riders. I always get offered a seat, don’t even need to ask.

Sneki95's avatar

….How dare she clean her house? Jeesus, so selfish, unbelievable.
What if she was busy all day and had an emergency so she had to vacuum it at that time? Does it even matter? Why does she have to ask you when to do what in her place anyways?

And all that “we used to be so much better to each other before” shit is trite af. Please think about how much were you polite and great towards others in that “golden age” we supposedly fell astray from.

It never existed, drop it.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

You are totally right, we are becoming that way, it’s a me first world at all costs, seems sad but true I know other would disagree thinking that they are not that way.
It’s that way when driving I must be first, it’s that way when shopping I will dart in front of the person with three items so I can be first at the check out with my cart full of items.
Most people have their damn nose buried in their smart phone and fail to see what the world is becoming around them.
We have totally lost our consideration of others as we make our way in this wonderful dog eat dog world.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Vacuuming at night bothering you is a sign of two things: close proximity and busy schedules. I find that to be more disturbing than a perceived lack of courtesy because it’s a sign that just living these days is getting harder.

Mimishu1995's avatar

That’s something everyone says once in a while when they think about the past. You don’t know how many people have said that throughout history, when they got nostalgic or they just didn’t agree with people with different point of view or behavior.

You seem to fall into the latter category. Why don’t you just have a word with her instead of coming here and complaining that humanity is coming to hell? She could have been unable to find time to do the cleaning. There could be lots of reasonable reasons for her doing that you could know if you just sit down with her and politely talk. Find a solution instead of complaining.

Sometimea the one who does the complaining is the one contributing to the problem.

josie's avatar

No. Empathy is a well known human characteristic and has been part of the cultural fabric of many civilizations since The Buddah, Zoroaster, Jesus Christ etc.

I agree with the above. What you are seeing is the problem that comes with living in very close proximity and diverging work schedules.

And anyway, what you are talking about is courtesy, not empathy. If you are living in close quarters, it is good to be courteous right up to the point that you can’t do anything at all. But that is not empathy, it is social convention.

As I close out, I usually don’t answer the “We as a society” questions because it implies that “We” includes me, whether or not the issue involves me.
What may be true for some individuals in a society is not necessarily true for the others.
Speak for yourself.
Just sayin.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

Actually… @Mimishu1995, I have…about a number of things in the past. It doesn’t seem to have clicked.

Lots of people above answered this question for me by the very nature of their responses. We are so focused on what our rights are that we do not consider the feelings of others…which is the point I was trying to make. Thanks all…

marinelife's avatar

Hang out with millenials. They are very caring of the planet and everyone around them.

kritiper's avatar

People are becoming more self-centered, more self-serving, greedier.

ucme's avatar

Empathetic, sympathetic, apathetic or just plain pathetic, society…just what are you?
Me, I have never lived by any rule of thumb thrust upon the flock pandering to some unwritten regulations of how to behave in public, fuck that into a cocked hat.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I would never vacuum after 10pm and my neighbors are respectful, too. I’ve lived in apartments for 30 years and can think of two neighbors who would regularly be so rude.

In my little world , people are as personally polite as ever. On a societal level though, an ugly mean-spiritedness sure has been encouraged and grown this past year.

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, as you demonstrated by not having any empathy for the person who had no other time to clean their apartment.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I see a profound lack of empathy every day. I see it in this thread. I don’t think it’s worse than it ever has been, maybe it is. People say they value empathy, but then they act like it only applies to people they like, and that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

ragingloli's avatar

Humans never had much empathy for anything outside their close family or tribe.
The current Syrian war refugee situation is just the perfect contemporary example for that very fact.

jca's avatar

I remember when I rented my first apartment, I started vacuuming around 12 noon one day, when I first moved in. The lady next door came knocking and screaming that she works all night and how dare I vacuum at this early hour. I remember calling up Landlord/Tenant Relations and asking if there was a law or rule or something, because I didn’t think what I did was unreasonable. He told me something vague, about having the right to inhabit your domicile blah blah blah. It seems there’s no set rule about hours for doing things like vacuuming or loud music.

I agree anything after around 9 or 10 would be rude, in my opinion, and nothing before maybe 10 in the morning. I am still not sure what the law is on it in my state. It doesn’t seem very considerate of her to vacuum during those hours. In the case of my neighbor screaming, I had no way of knowing that she worked all night. I could have then had the attitude that working all night is her problem not mine, but I tried to be considerate in the future and not vacuum at a time that I thought would inconvenience her. Now, 20 years late, a bit older and a bit wiser, I might yell back and say listen, if you’re up all night and I’m up during the day, I can try to accommodate you but not always.

It’s for this reason that I’m glad I live in a private house. There are disadvantages, like having to salt if there’s ice, shovel if there’s snow and rake when there are leaves down, but the advantage is privacy and not having to deal with stuff like that.

Jaxk's avatar

Sounds like you need an apartment with better insulation. I wouldn’t even think that a vacuum could disturb the neighbors, it simply would not occur to me. Of course it would never occur to me to vacuum in the first place.

cinnamonk's avatar

I echo @Jaxk‘s thought on this. Is it possible your neighbor didn’t even realize you could hear the vacuum cleaner?

anniereborn's avatar

I dunno, I spent many adult years in the 90s having those same kind of rude apartment neighbors. If that’s anything to go by, nothing has changed.

rojo's avatar

I will admit to a little confusion. Is it worse or is it just that we have more video footage of the existing breakdown of social mores? I am leaning toward it being worse because people seem to be so much more self-centered and narcissistic than they were even 45 years ago when I was a kid.

cinnamonk's avatar

@rojo there is no way society of decades past was more tolerant, empathetic, or polite than society today. For one, it is no longer socially acceptable to lynch people. Your perception that people are more narcissistic now than when you were growing up is most likely generational bias in action.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I guess if one had to use some of the comments of this thread, the proof would be in the pudding. It appears some are trying to debunk the OQ as almost folly. Sure people have acted Boorish to one another for centuries, that is the nature of man, however, it by my investigation was more of an ”us” vs ”them”, to those of your race, social status, religious affiliation, etc. individual courtesies seemed to be more intact than today where it doesn’t seem to matter. I have seen those common courtesies like taking into account what hour you were hammering on the deck you are building, vacuuming through common walls, playing loud music or TV, rototilling your garden on a windy day when the dust would dust your neighbors when they are in their back yard, etc. On a basic social level it has eroded, though some seem to not notice or maybe guilty of such as they will try to debunk it as not really being there or certainly no worse.

LornaLove's avatar

I can resonate with what you are saying. Perhaps she dropped something though and had to vacuum it up? Or, she is unaware of the noise it makes. I do personally find that people, to my mind, have become less empathetic in general. Who knows why? Busy lives, being overloaded with stuff, also there are so many needy people out there now probably because there are more people on earth than there was before. (I’m unsure if this was a neighbour question only or people in general).

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