Digitization and empathy are two words that we use regularly in our professional and personal lives. If we tried to temporarily erase them from our daily vocabulary, we would surely find ourselves with two semantic gaps that would limit and impoverish the ability to express what we want to say. Like any concept that has become a fashionable topic, we refer to it with such a wide range of meanings, even contradictory to each other, that it often does not help us understand each other, because we are not talking about the same thing.
In his work On the diversity of the structure of human language, the linguist Von Humboldt stated in a general way already in the 19th century that: “When hearing a word, no two people think exactly the same thing, and this difference, however small, spreads, like ripples in water, through the whole of the language. That is why all understanding is at the same time a misunderstanding; all coincidence in ideas and feelings, a simultaneous divergence”.
Empathy encompasses feelings and a radical attitude that we would like to envelop all human relationships so that they reach the rank of personal, of an irreplaceable, cordial, close and original you-to-you. We aspire for it to be present in our lives and in the lives of those who come into contact with it, because without emotions we are unable to fully understand what is happening and what happens to us: facts provide information, however, emotions offer interpretation, they make facts like numbers “sing”; Neither one nor the other will ever do it by themselves.
Empathy allows, through a genuine effort, a person to capture, understand by vital compatibility, precisely the experience of another person: “I understand what you say to me, even if I lack the words to express myself, because I feel it as you do”.
The process of empathy is as follows: the other appears before me with his physical expression; From that physical expression, translating it and introducing it to me, that is, putting myself in his place, I represent his state of mind, in this way I get an idea of what is happening inside him, which is what he really is the core of empathy. Without it, it is not possible to respond with an adequate feeling to the feeling of the other; An illustrative example, which is perhaps conspicuous by its absence in our social life, is that of compassion, which is nothing more than “suffering with”.
The condition of possibility of shared feelings and emotions presupposes knowledge by empathy, whose performance reaches the point of facilitating full understanding of the point of view of the person who is speaking to us, and coming to assume it spontaneously, even identifying with it.
As the reader will have realized, being an empath is far from being within the reach of anyone if they do not firmly propose it. Something very different happens with sympathy, which facilitates life between people, but does not give rise to a rich and smooth vital relationship.
Simultaneously with the good press of empathy, the waves of digitization processes that are leading social and business transformations have intensified, accelerated by the health emergency from which we have not yet escaped. The fantastic impact, because it exceeds our wildest dreams, of digitization also deserves the qualification of tsunami, although in this case constructive, driven by technology: digitization has simplified and enhanced innumerable manufacturing, service, administrative and management processes; it has transformed so many other ways of doing and relating mechanically. Ultimately, nothing escapes its beneficial influence; however, as in many other cases of drastic and profound changes, it entails counterparts; and it is that according to the castizo warns: what is good for the spleen, is bad for the spine.
Indeed, our digitized society commoditizes what it catches in its path, giving rise to what Byung-Chul Han calls “the hell of the same”. The digitization of our gaze creates a bubble effect that shields us from the other person, making them disappear from our horizon.
Digitization left to its own dynamics, Byung-Chul Han points out, exponentially multiplies information and communication, turning them into waves of hyper-information and hyper-communication, which do not make the world brighter and more understandable, but instead have an anesthetic and numbing effect, because we end up overloaded, among other things, with ourselves.
The challenge lies in how to extract the best that digitization can offer us without losing in the attempt the unbought grace of life, which empathy helps us discover day after day, with the permission of the selfie.