The University of Michigan recently published a study suggesting that today’s college students are lacking in empathy and concern for others. The rise of social media is given a big portion of the blame in the article; the suggestion is that as young adults spend more time “socializing” on the computer, they lose the ability to care for others and to socialize in real life.
To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this research. On the one hand, I do run across students who lack concern for others and seem sheltered in their own little electronic world. It’s not uncommon for me to see people walking across campus next to a real person, but nonetheless immersed in an iPod or cell phone.
On the other hand, many of the students I serve are incredibly selfless. They give of their time, energy, and even money to a degree that would have been beyond me when I was in college. As I type this, nearly fifty of our students are giving up half of their summer to travel around the globe sharing the Gospel. They are sacrificing prestigious internships, college credit, and extra cash because they care for people who do not have Jesus. Throughout this past Spring, hundreds of our students voluntarily gave up their weekends doing work projects for families in our church, even though they received no personal compensation for doing so. Shannon and I regularly receive offers from college girls to babysit our kids at no charge.
So I’m not so pessimistic as these studies encourage me to be. Yes, our culture is generally self-absorbed and umempathetic toward others. But there is a strong group of students who care for others and give of themselves because they love Jesus and they love others.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts. If you are a college student, do you think your generation is more narcissistic than previous ones? Why or why not?
If you are an older adult, do you think all these kids are just selfish and mean? Or do you know some good ones as well?