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Fat Thigh-roid Woes: Does Empathy have a Facebook Page?

Post Published: 22 October 2010
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Category: Column, Fat Thigh Roid Woes, Graves Disease Symptoms Column
This post currently has 8 responses. Leave a comment


I was reading an article in the Boston Globe this week about “The Empathy Deficit”.  To summarize, it was about how a group of psychologists have been conducting studies on college students since the 70s in an attempt to measure empathy.

The study found that college students today are 40% less empathetic than they were in 1979, the steepest decline coming in the last 10 years.  Kids are growing up and just not caring what happens to people around them.  What could be to blame?  Bad parenting, movies, violence on tv, technology…?

Online social networking, along with cell phones makes us so accessible to each other, but it’s also driving us apart (this is old news).  The other question brought to the table in this article is how narcissism directly correlates to empathy.  The more narcissistic someone is, the less empathetic.

All I can say, is…true dat.

In the movie The Social Network, there was a line (I can’t quote verbatim cause I can’t remember) about the driving motivation to create Facebook – people want to know what is going on in the lives of their friends.

Remember how that started?  Everyone hopped on board and would check out the profile pages of everyone they knew.  Cyber stalking used to be a blast.

When did social networking morph from “I want to know what my friends are doing” to “I want THE WORLD to know what I AM DOING no matter how mundane my life is…”?

There are few things I am proud of…one of them is you will never see me post a Facebook update along the lines of “I’m having a great day!” or “Just came back from the mall, it was fun!!” or even the dreaded, “I just ate a Snickers….oh no, I better workout!”  I know people that do this EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I reserve my updates for stupid shit, along with being as offensive as possible.

Oh yeah, this column goes to my Facebook page.  Guess how many good friends who don’t regularly partake in the “ME ME ME” updates have read it?  A solid handful. Guess how many friends who update the most narcissistic shit on the planet have read my column?  ZERO.  Maybe they’re too busy with “just had a great day!” to take a look…

There’s a good reason I refuse to participate in the inane updates.  Mostly because NO ONE CARES.  Why would I assume anyone cares to know that I gained a pound in the past few days?  Should I log onto my profile and update it with my latest exciting adventure – “Nicole sat in her jammies all day and drank tea…YAY!”??  I accept that I am not a celebrity, and therefore, no one really cares how my mostly uninteresting life is progressing.  But, you see, It’s not just my life – most people believe their lives are downright fascinating and I’m here to burst bubbles everywhere and say…they’re not.

Unfortunately, we continue to celebrate uninteresting people via reality TV, and Facebook gives us the delusion that our lives are worth documenting down to….every. single. detail.  They have even added a feature called “Places” where you can check into a location and everyone will know where you’re at.  Someone please explain to me why anyone takes time to tell friends on Facebook where they are having dinner for the night?  Why is this important enough to take time out of eating dinner to do?  PS – If you’re guilty of these updates on a regular basis, then please, help me understand WHY you do it.  Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I am missing the point – therefore, I’m open to hearing your side of the story.  Call me an asshole if you want.

I suppose I’m straying off my point, which is plain old narcissism on the rise and how it’s messing with you and your disease.

Since most people are so self-absorbed with their own lives, do you find friends/family less empathetic to your thyroid situation?  Or, on the other end, were you the narcissist to begin with, and now since you have thyroid disease you’ve taken things to a new and dramatic level?  Is it always about you damn it?

Are you a part of the narcissistic many or the empathetic few?  Maybe a combo of both?

I write this column every week and it’s about ME and how it can relate to YOU, but I still feel odd writing about my experiences.  It’s been a challenge to open up and talk about myself when I really don’t enjoy talking about myself.  I make jokes to avoid talking about myself in day to day life.  People ask me what I’m up to, and you’ll often hear “nothing” in place of what is really going on.  I’m not trying to say I’m not a narcissist – because to a certain extent…I am (I blame society).

My point is, this column has allowed me the opportunity to share my story…but I remind myself that it doesn’t mean my story is more interesting than yours.  This just happens to be the platform where I get to share my story, and I attempt to make it interesting with flashy shit sometimes…but I know that most of it is pretty mundane (I guess pooping my pants is interesting on some level).  The fucked up part is that it’s taken a disease to make me want to talk about myself.  Dumb.  I should just join the masses and blab on and on despite how bored my audience gets.

I have met people who wish for disease, and for the attention it brings.  I once had a convo with a friend of a friend that was convinced she had throat cancer, even though every doctor she had seen told her SHE DIDN’T.  She insisted friends go with her to doctor appointments for support, when support really wasn’t needed.  The only thing she wanted to do was get a prescription for coddling and attention.  Here she is, abusing her health insurance to satisfy her demented need for attention – yet I am without insurance, and paying for an actual disease.  That skank.

This particular woman had a group of friends that were sick of it.  Sick of her need for attention.  They all knew she had NOTHING wrong with her, but they continued to “support” her to a certain extent.  The messed up thing is, this lady is just sick in the head…so I suppose she does need some support from friends, right?

My disease is real.  How many of my friends have been sick of supporting me?  How many people were sick of hearing about it?

Dark thought of the day: How many people got fed up because it took away from their own stage time?  Talking about disease takes friendships to a whole new level…and it’s draining on those that are used to being center stage most of the time.

Final question:  have you posted Facebook updates about your disease?

Yeah, I’m rambling and I’m asking lots of different questions – but that’s cause I want answers.  For reals, when I’m telling you I want to LISTEN and LEARN – I mean it. I feel like I’m missing the boat, and I need some knowledge dropped.  Let’s get this debate going!

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8 Responses to “Fat Thigh-roid Woes: Does Empathy have a Facebook Page?”

  1. Amanda says:

    I think you are my long lost sister.

    Empathy is dwindling, along the golden rule and kindness. We are much more interested in other people’s lives, our own agenda and getting more than the next guy. It breaks my heart on a daily basis. I volunteer to help out with Dear Thyroid on the Facebook area. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t go there at all. I have mostly family for “friends” there, a couple trusted unselfish friends and 1 co-worker who is an awesome generous humor filled fella. My “updates” are mainly about garden, kids, family… they aren’t exciting and I restrict who sees them to people that may be interested. I restrict what I look at there. I would much rather stumble around and read about knitting or cooking than read a facebook update. My stupid blog seems to be for psycho rants and thoughtless blurbs… which is ok because there are what… a billion blogs out there right?

    On two separate occasions I have “announced” that I have Graves Disease, and immediately deleted them. It is an easy way to tell people stuff, but I am so uncomfortable with talking about myself in a “look at me” kind of way that I deleted the “announcements”. I never mention Graves Disease on my facebook page. However, when I beep around and comment to people as part of my DT.org volunteer work, people see the “Amanda commented on Dear Thyroid’s page” thing. [Which being a freak, I normally zoom back there and deleted those things]. I have had 2 inlaw family members contact me in private inquiring “why are you doing that?” or “i guess you have thyroid issues”. So I reply in detail about my disease, and “poof” never hear another word from them about it. I don’t want attention from “them” for this, because it isn’t “caring” it is all “oh you have that? well I HAVE THIS AND IT IS WORSE!!!” Is that narcissistic? I see it that way, and I hate to indulge them or anyone. If I share about myself, it is because I need to.. I need help or you need to know. That’s it. I am happy to listen to other people’s problems, help when I can and give what is needed. There is just too much crying wolf out there now.

    Amanda
    … I often miss the point of stuff here, but blabber on with a long response anyway… I think I may have hit a few points you asked about.. maybe.

    • Nicole Wells says:

      Dear Amanda,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s such a fine line to walk – participating in what society now considers “communicating”, and keeping things to yourself.

      It’s almost like, if I don’t text or update my Facebook about my disease no one would know what was going on with me. At the same time, if I started updating my Facebook about my disease, I’d feel really awkward. Therefore, it becomes this internalized “UGH” that one hopes to ride out until this Graves shit is over.

      People may call and ask about how you’re feeling, but that’s the end of that. No one wants the sick girl to come to the party.

      And yes, I agree, it’s become one disease or issue topping one another. Since when did getting sick become some kind of competition?

      It’s a constant struggle to try and find the balance between giving and taking, especially when so many people just take take take. It’s a constant uphill battle to not become jaded when you and your disease gets put onto a back shelf, and the only people you can rely on are getting weary because they can only handle so much burden. The only thing I’ve been able to do is become somewhat of a hermit and start baking, while occasionally sending texts about my health.

      xoxo,

      Nicole

  2. Shan McKenzie says:

    Everyone has a different way of using facebook. My hubby was on facebook for years. I was so resentful of the hours it took away from things we could have shared. When a family member came on for a chat, I tried it out and the level of conversation was mundane. All he ever did, and still does is play games and chat with family when they come on. Because of my thyroid, discovering Dear Thyroid, and joining the facebook group, I relented and joined facebook. I totally freaked out after a couple of weeks and got off because it was just too overwhelming. I jumped back on and have discovered over time the different workings that my man never knew, and still has no interest in.

    The thing with me is that every person that I ‘friend’ has a reason to be there, and I flick off those who don’t fit. The reasons are varied, thyroid friends, gardening friends, homeschooling friends, politics, environmental. I haven’t learned how to separate them though, and I know that facebook works out who and what you want to appear on your wall. I don’t mind people posting their mundane stuff, it doesn’t detract from my life and gives me an insight into what they are mainly focusing on, even if it is themselves. I could certainly do with some self focus. I wouldn’t mind if the tlc that I gave out though, came back, even a fraction of it. If someone gave the slightest care for how I might be feeling or coping, given that I’ve cared through one’s pneumonia, another’s childbirth and so on. Empathy goes out, I feel it so deeply, it doesn’t seem to be returning. Maybe I need to put out my personal woes and join the belly-button gazers. Its not in my nature. I don’t want my life to be about my thyroid either. I hate it to be thought of as sick. So anyways, if I’m feeling the empathy deficit, perhaps everyone else is too, their mundane posts a cry for attention. It certainly does all seem to be about ego, getting recognition for whatever motivates each of us. And now in conclusion may I say a great big Fuck You!!! to my thyroid. Its good to be back.

    • Nicole Wells says:

      Dear Shan,

      Don’t even get me started on the Facebook games. Farmville? I have no idea why it’s so important, but whatever makes people happy…

      Sounds like you’ve hit a good balance and using Facebook to work for you, instead of being a slave to it. It’s one of those things – since our lives revolve around thyroid specific issues, what is cool to say to the general public on facebook? It’s a nightmare. I haven’t figured out how to filter my updates to specific people either, but my updates are mostly about food anyways…so I don’t think it matters.

      I’m with you on a round of FUCK YOU, THYROID!! I’ll tip a glass to that for sure.

      xoxo,

      Nicole

  3. Giulia says:

    My Facebook posts often have big gaps, like months at a time since I posted. Mostly comments on others or likes for something. I am not one to blurb on about nothing, even in life, if I don’t feel I have anything worth while saying I don’t say it and unfortunately that has now included my disease. The most part because nobody really cares. Talking about your thyroid disease is a real conversation stopper. And yes at times maybe it is a case of taking away the stage from someone else who feels their life is more important, but the most part I think it is a case of they do not understand it and quite often don’t want to understand it. So they say nothing, ask nothing and continue on with their mundane lives as if you never said a thing. Unfortunately this includes family which saddens me. I emigrated to Australia and have no family here so facebook is one means of communication or ‘seeing’ what they are all up to. But still I do not mention it on there. Since being diagnosed and telling them, I have not been asked once how I am, or if I am feeling any better. Maybe I downgraded the disease when I first told them, who knows.
    Is this a lack of empathy? Can it be classed as that when nothing is ever mentioned again and I do not go on about it? Who knows, but it certainly feels like a big slap of the ‘I don’t want to hear about your illness’.
    As I am not a great talker, it makes me a listener..to all and sundry about their woes, illnesses and poor me’s. But I get fed up when that same courtesy is not returned and I feel like saying ‘fuck you I am not interested I have my own problems to deal with’. But do I? No. So what does that make me? Empathetic I guess, but pissed off with it cos it is not a two way street.

    • Nicole Wells says:

      Dear Giulia,

      Sometimes when we downplay the state of our illnesses, we give people the impression that we’re fine…but really, we’re seething inside. Unfortunately, we’re not surrounded by mind readers, even if we wish that were the case. Many times I wished people could just FEEL what I was feeling, so I wouldn’t have to just explain myself and sound like a broken record.

      I’m sorry you feel that you’re not getting empathy from people in return. Since I’m not familiar with your current situation, I have to ask – have you sat down and had any kind of serious conversation about your disease with your family or friends? Or are you really downplaying it?

      It’s true that most people don’t know how to react once we let them know the severity of symptoms. It’s mostly a “oh my” or “I’m sorry” that I’ve gotten in return, and it’s taken me a long time to accept that people are afraid of what they don’t know. No one really can understand the depth of disease unless they’ve actually experienced it. Or let themselves be empathetic enough to experience it.

      Please keep me updated on your progress, and I encourage you to try and reach out if you have indeed been keeping most of it to yourself. Please take care of yourself!

      xoxo,

      Nicole

  4. Melissa Travis says:

    Powerful shit yo!!!

    I’m just thinking that sometimes we are healing in order to BE HEALERS. And sometimes we’re stuck in this situation trying not to cry and scream. But most of the beautiful emotionally healthy people I know have been through some TOUGH SHIT. They have lost spouses or children, they have been ill or gotten a friend or themselves through illness… they have WALKED THROUGH IT… and well — this is it. COMPASSION can only come from living it.

    And if we are less empathetic then we have to be DOUBLY MORE COMPASSIONATE TO MAKE UP FOR THE BULLSHIT ALL AROUND US.
    And it is some work.

    giant hugs on this beautiful article sister. xoxoxo
    Muah!
    xo
    Melissa

  5. Leigh says:

    WOW! Took the words right out of my mouth!!! I have to commend you on this article…the state of humanity today is pathetic and narcissistic. I sit on my balcony and people watch quite often and the one thing I see the most is that EVERYONE is on the phone and in their own little world. I’m at home on the inside looking out at everyone much of the time because of thyroid disease and post traumatic stress disorder…been through some very traumatic things. Not only are people wrapped up in themselves, but they seem to have a need to tweet and post every detail! Yet far be it from them to try to listen or understand what another is going through. I was for a long while a model and actor…I can’t even BEGIN to tell you the level of narcissism in the people I worked with, and the superficiality. Been out of that line of work and done with it for about 4 years, and it is a major eye opener to be sick and see just how self absorbed the people i knew actually are. I once thought i had dozens of friends…now i am happy to say i have about 3 people i can count on no matter what. The rest, I have realized i don’t miss them. And if i do, all i have to do is look at their facebook pages and it sure reminds me quickly of why i don’t! Personally, i use Facebook to look at Pages for shows i enjoy or to communicate and learn from Dear Thyroid, ButYouDon’tLookSick, and Stop The Thyroid Madness. I don’t feel a need to EVER post or make status updates, we really don’t HAVE to. I closed my Wall and people Inbox me instead. I wish there would be a widespread facebook backlash where people would start to realize its so ridiculous! Don’t even get me started on the people “checking in” to locations…as an assault survivor, i think its not only stupid and vain, but a great way to get stalked! ugh, people. LOL. Thanks for letting me vent…my best to you!!!

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