A friend of mine posed this question to us:
“is it possible that people are becoming less empathetic because they are feeling too busy [to care about others] on their paths to success?”
Here is what i think:
People are either sufficiently empathetic or insufficiently empathetic and that characteristic of their personality will drive both their choices and how they experience them.
What we observe is people being busy. Through their behavior they reveal their preference: to care about their professional career. But we can’t observe their feelings or well-being. Some of them enjoy, at least temporarily, to build their lives around their expected success; others do not.
For simplicity, call the ones that enjoy devoting their time and energy into building their careers the ‘self-aware type’. We don’t know anything about their level of empathy because we only know they don’t ‘feel too busy’ even if they are. All we know these people are having a good time working towards a professional goal. Now, consider their counterparts: those who do not get comparable levels of satisfaction from building their professional profile. They are the ones that actually ‘feel too busy on their path to success’.
‘Feeling busy’ is not a positive valuation of one’s experience. By expressing ‘feeling too busy’ these people are implicitly saying: ‘I want more time off’. Some of these people want more time off to take care of themselves, in which case they are just a ‘time-constrained version’ of the ‘insufficiently empathetic type’ of people.
That leaves us with yet another fraction of the population to characterize: those who want more time off to take care of others; the sufficiently emphatic to ‘feel too busy’ and want more time to care about others. These people I call the ‘post-modern slaves’, people who cannot afford not to care about their professional careers because-as we say in our home country-the tiger will eat them. I doubt these people can become ‘insufficiently empathetic’ for being busy. On the contrary, I think that an overwhelming feeling of restriction will amplify their empathetic ability: they will rapidly understand other people’s pain and frustration as they themselves are notoriously aware of their own misery.
Finally, I believe that whether an ‘insufficiently empathetic’ type can become ‘sufficiently emphatic’ entirely depends on extrinsic factors, such as a strong emotional experience, religious influence, and other life-changing events. Notice a major caveat in the analysis: the level of ‘sufficiency’ is entirely unidentified.