Does Facebook Effect Empathy Levels in Adults

Table of Content

In recent years social media has become one if not the most popular way people interact with each other. Through social media people can socialize, communicate and virtually interact with each other within the comfort of their own home. Research have been shown, given several possible effects technology might affect empathy in users. According to Ogan, Suheyd. (2017) it has shown that empathy is negatively affected by technology use, particularly social media use, mostly because technology tends to decrease face-to-face interaction.

The study also states that it’s not clear whether technology’s harmfully affects empathy or whether people who are low in empathy tend to use technology more,( Ogan, Suhevda. (2017). With this new way of communication comes numerous questions that arise. Is the current population who use online interaction be able to express empathy toward their peers during face to face interaction? In my research I will try to understand, if social media usage effects empathy levels in young adults. One question the research will try to answer is are the hours spend per day using Facebook effect the level of empathy in adults? Empathy is categorized as one’s skill to feel along with others, to share in their pleasure and adversities. In psychology, it has often been defined as a multidimensional construct, comprising both cognitive and behavioral states (Davis, M.H. (1983).

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As with many wanted prosocial characters, folks are not born with this inborn ability, but learn to become empathic through training approaches. Yet, if one is not exposed to the necessary nurturing to develop empathy into a habit, they may not be able to relate to others, which can impact their social appropriateness. Facebook has become one of the most popular source of online communication, creating problems for personal socialization between individuals. Facebook offers connection without the hassle of face to face emotion. They meet people, date, establish friendships a relationship without knowing the induvial on the other side of the screen. This has brought concerns of weather empathy is being lost in people who are often users of social media. In a study Facebook user were asked to delete friends from their accounts with an incentive of 24cents per each deleted friend, with in the first week 82,000 users removed 23,960 friends. Raising the question of empathy in relation to one another (e.g., Stritzke et al. and Ellison et al.) While others argue that Facebook helps with the complex physical and psychological contains. The limitations of this study are the users of Facebook were provided incentives to delete friends, should they have not provided incentives would they have had the result they had (Chan, T. H. (2014).

The Internet usage paradox posits that, as a powerful communicative tool, extensive Internet usage may hinder users’ real-life communications. Facebook further underscores this paradox. Designed to facilitate social bonding, some Facebook users may reduce real-life bonding with others. There are two explanations for this suppression effect: displacement of social activities, and replacement of strong social ties. First, the time spent on surfing or updating FB may displace the time otherwise spent on real-life social activities. Second, people may substitute better quality ties with weaker ones ( (e.g., Stritzke et al. and Ellison et al).Facebook is designed with sophisticated social bonding aids that allow individuals to express their feelings and experiences freely to concentric circles of ‘‘friends.’’ These postings allow others to ‘‘access’’ the individual’s opinions, emotions, and activities, hence reducing the need to engage in real-life communication (Chan, Terri H). Together with the convenience of accessing Facebook, some people incline to replace genuine real-world interactions with less engaging digital ones, causing the suppression. Specifically, this study investigates how this suppression effect may affect individuals with a particular psychological makeup. As discussed, extroverts may expand their social circle through FB at a cost of real-life social interactions (Chan, Terri H). The replacement thus dampens their empathic social skills. They suggested that the shift in empathy levels could be driven by a more individualistic and self-centered attitude, as indicated by the label of “Generation Me” (Twenge, J.M). Support for this view comes from a survey that found only a small percentage of young adults listed helping others as their primary goal, while the majority indicated that becoming wealthy was the most important goal in their lives (Pew Research Center).



The participants were 386 adults recruited from a large metropolitan city in Northern California. There were 328 participants who identified as females, 55 participants who identified as males, and 2 participants identified as gender non-binary. The age range for the sample was18 to 86 years (M = 33.49, SD = 12.64). Regarding educational attainment, 4 had less than a high school degree, 155had a high school diploma or equivalent, 75 had an associate degree, 98 had a bachelor’s degree, and 52had a graduate or professional degree.

Materials and Measures

Data were collected using online survey. The survey included questions about demographic, empathy, and social media. Quantitative surveys collected information by asking specific questions and then coding the data using SPSS in numerical form for appropriate statistical analyses.

Empathy. Empathy was measured using Jolliffe and Farrington’s (2006) 20-item Basic Empathy Scale (BES). Participants rated each item on a 5-point Likert type scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither agree nor disagree, 4 = agree, and 5 = strongly agree). Nine items assessed cognitive empathy (e.g., “I can understand my friend’s happiness when s/he does well at something”) and 11 items assessed affective empathy (e.g., “after being with a friend who is sad about something, I usually feel sad”). After reverse-coding eight negatively worded items, participants’ ratings were summed across all 20 items. Participants’ scores could range from 20 (low in empathy) to 100 (high level of empathy). Reliability analyses indicated good reliability (Cronbach’s α = .82).

Facebook was measure using a time scale with a 4-point Likert type scale (1 = less than 1 hr., 2 = 1-2hrs, 3 = 3-4 hrs., 4= 4+hrs.) survey question consisted of on average, how many hours do you spend on Facebook each day? Participants’ scores could range from less than one hour (low in usage) to 4 or more hours (high usage). Reliability analyses indicated poor reliability (Cronbach’s α = .82).


This anonymous survey was designed by undergraduate students in a research method course. Survey was posted in popular social media sites where participants randomly chose to taking the survey. The survey was approximately 15-20 minutes. Risks associated with this study are not anticipated to be greater than those risks encountered in daily life. Participation in study are voluntary, participants have the right to stop or leave study at any time without penalty or loss of benefits to which they may be entitled to. Any information that is obtained is connection with this study will remain confidential. Social media sites were used as a platform to distribute the survey to participant to consent form was need as it was stated in survey that it was a volunteer free choice to participate in study survey. This method of survey is different from other administer due to its variety of social site questions that are asked providing a variety of data to choose from when analyzing.


The mean score for empathy was 75.2824 (SD = 8.22922). The overall the mean score for how many hours adults spend on Facebook was 1.88 (SD =.848). Comparing to the hours spend using Facebook one hour or less (M=74.95, SD=8.75) while 1-2 hours (M=75.11, SD = 7.51) conditions; t(247)= -.162= p=.0.020. The result show that there is a weak correlation between the two variables. Comparing the relationship between empathy and hours spend on Facebook independent t-test was using to confirm that empathy levels are not affected by the hours using Facebook. Participants used Facebook for an average of two hours per day (range: less than 1hour to 2 hours, Table 1). Facebook use for the day of testing was significantly correlated empathy (t = -.163, p < .872). For Facebook Usage, independent t-test confirmed that females spent more time per day on Facebook. For Facebook. Simple bar graph was using to understand if gender makes a difference in hours spend using Facebook. The bar graph shows that there is no significance in gender difference between the hours spend using Facebook and empathy levels (female, male, vinery, Table 2).


This study is part of a larger study which investigates the use of different social media sites and the effect it may have on empathy levels in users. For this part of the study we analyze the hours spend per day using Facebook effect the level of empathy in adults. We hypothesis that empathy would decrease as hours increase using Facebook. An anonymous online survey was administered to more than 386 The survey measured real-world empathy using a well-established scale (the Basic Empathy Scale, BES), also with specific question about social media usage, are the hours spend per day using Facebook effect the level of empathy in adults? Results show that there is no significant difference in levels of empathy due to hours spend using Facebook. Although just being online does not seem to eliminate empathy, Konrath’s review of personality traits in the era of the Internet showed declines in some personality variables, including empathy. Research showed lower empathy scores for contemporary college students in comparison to college students over the last 30 years (Konrath, O’Brien, & Hsing) Konrath raised the possibility that the declines in empathy could be related to people spending time online and engaging in superficial interactions with others. Small and Vorgan said that being online reduces an individual’s capacity for empathy.

Primarily, this claim was based on the assumption that going online reduces the amount of time spent face-to-face with others. For sure, elements of non-verbal communication essential to reading emotions, such as facial expressions, body posture, eye contact, gestures, and touch, are missing from texts, instant messages, and social networking conversations. However, Caplan and Turner’s description of online comforting behavior argued that being online can support empathy or even increase it. The new findings in this research help shed some understanding of how social media is affecting or not effecting its users. Are findings show that there is no difference between less than 1hour to 1-2 hours of active use to effect empathy. Limitations that could have affected results are pool sample size, Sample size comparing to the number of users in Facebook data obtain is small providing little information that can be compare. This could be fixed by having the survey effective for a longer time one week is not enough to obtain effective data. self-report data was gathered using online surveys, date can be contaminated with bias answers, making the survey shorter could lower subjective answers.

One to one interview with participants and hours spending using social media can reduce subjective hours and provide us with better data. Lastly, time consuming survey, this may have been the result of multiple question not answer, shorter length of survey will increase the chances of fully response survey. While this research provided a glimpse of how social media effect the level of empathy in adults. We need to educate consumers of the possible effect social media may have in their empathy. Research into online health support communities has found that empathy does exist among the participants (Carrier, Spradlin, Bunce, and Rosen). So, just being “behind a screen” does not eliminate empathy among technology users. Further, going online generally does not appear to reduce peoples’ capacity for real-world empathy. More reach need to be done for online activities to appear to negatively affect real-world empathy, including video gaming and online activities that are not associated with increased time.

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Does Facebook Effect Empathy Levels in Adults. (2021, Oct 18). Retrieved from

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