Is compassion fatigue inevitable in an age of 24-hour news?

Syria 0 Comment 2

We have never been more aware of the appalling events that occur around the world every day. But in the face of so much horror, is there a danger that we become numb to the headlines – and does it matter if we do? By Elisa Gabbert

In April this year, a woman calling herself Apathetic Idealist wrote to an advice columnist at the New York Times, asking for help in overcoming a sense of political paralysis. This condition, which was keeping her from engaging in “real action”, began in November 2016, when Donald Trump won the US presidential election. “I continue to be outraged by this administration’s treatment of Latinos, Native Americans, Muslims, LGBT folks, women and so many others,” she wrote. “But I’m struggling to summon a response.”

“I have no doubt that many people can relate to your letter. I can relate to it,” began the response from the columnist, Roxane Gay. “It is damn hard to expand the limits of our empathy when our emotional attention is already stretched too thin.”

Related: Extreme altruism: should you care for strangers at the expense of your family? | Larissa MacFarquhar

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