Are College Students Less Compassionate Or Just Too Busy?

Generation Y is often praised for being highly resourceful, adept at multi-tasking, hard-working and technology savvy. However, we are also coming of age in a time of notoriously tight job markets, cutthroat college admissions, a media-entrenched culture, and a “winner-takes-all” society. According to recent research analysis released from the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, all of these factors are taking a toll on our generation. The result? College students today have hit a low in terms of empathy and compassion, and we apparently are less likely to reach out to others.

For those who are skeptical of these findings, this report has been three decades in the making and incorporates 72 separate studies conducted between 1979 and 2009. The results strongly support that college kids today are 40 percent less empathetic than their counterparts 20 to 30 years ago.

Let’s push statistics to the side for a moment. As I reflect on my own college experience, I can see where these trends may have some validity. In college, our lives start to revolve around getting good grades, finding good internships, being involved in various student organizations and taking on leadership positions, etc. After all, college is perceived as the time where we are really supposed to get to know ourselves, and therefore put our own dreams and interests before others. In the process, our friends may naturally get pushed to the side. How many times have you opted to write on someone's Facebook wall instead of calling him or her up for a quick chat?

It's understandable that studies would show we are less empathetic. However, I would argue that it might not be the most accurate interpretation. Maybe the real consequence is that our generation has less time to afford for everyone—it’s not that we don’t care. Regardless, these studies are a good wake-up call for us to evaluate what’s truly important. Clearly, we should care about our own selves. But we should also make time for friends in our lives as well—ideally, it shouldn’t have to come down to sacrificing one for the other. [Via U.S. News & World Report]

Photo via Venus Consulting