How to Make the Internet Kinder

Social media isn’t making us less kind, but it makes kindness harder

Kaitlin Ugolik
Forge
Published in
6 min readMar 9, 2020

--

Photo: fizkes/Getty Images

InIn the lead-up to the 2016 election, like many other Americans, I found myself spending hours each day discussing politics on social media. Although at the time it felt so urgent, I think it’s safe to say that nothing was actually gained from these exchanges between strangers and far-flung family members.

Part of the problem was that the fear of what might happen if the election went one way or the other made everything seem so urgent that there was no time to listen. I found myself constantly thinking about whether it was a fundamental lack of understanding that had led to the country’s massive division and wondering what role gamified conversation had played.

Looking back, it seems clear that we often got stuck because we were trying to force feelings of empathy onto one another — for the poor white working class, for Mexican immigrants, for people who felt forgotten by past presidents, for people who feared for their future under this one — through a medium that wasn’t built for it.

Empathy — at its most basic, the ability to imagine the feelings of another — is often described as a salve for divisions in American culture. In recent years, it has come to also be seen as a skill that can — and…

--

--

Kaitlin Ugolik
Forge
Writer for

Writer, editor, loud laugher. The Future of Feeling: Building Empathy in a Tech-Obsessed World out Feb 1 https://www.amazon.com/Future-Feeling-Building-Empathy-