Is isolation increasing empathy?

Just a year ago, our lives were put on pause as a pandemic forced us into quarantine. With it, some of our relationships regressed as we were confined to the use of social media and video chat. Ironically, as our relationships struggled to stay afloat, we began to understand each other in new ways. The meaning and importance of human relations began to crystallize like never before.
Before quarantine, we took the quality of others’ lives for granted. But when the pandemic hit, all of our lives were turned upside-down in some way. We have accepted that (for the time being) the new norm is one of increased hardship and stress.
We also took for granted our constant interactions with others, whether inside or outside of school, so there wasn’t much need to pry into the lives of others. But now, we are haunted by the loneliness of quarantine. As a result, there is a newfound sense of urgency to ascertain the wellbeing of our friends and family. This effort to understand the plight of others has increased our sense of empathy.
In addition to our personal lives, the media has also contributed to our awareness of others. Even though media polarization seems to isolate us further, over the past year, the media (generally speaking) has given the national spotlight to those who have struggled the most (healthcare workers, senior citizens, needy families). Between all of our electronic devices, it’s difficult not to become completely absorbed in such tragic stories. In fact, with an abundance of leisure what excuse is there not to read the news? The worst moments of last year were publicized in full display as the country watched in disbelief.
The events of the past few months unfolded in a way that naturally brought people together. With every incident of unemployment, hospitalization and death, we realized that with so much at stake the only way to move forward was to understand and help one another.
The influx of news stories and our increased interest in caring for others has exposed us to a variety of scenarios we couldn’t possibly have fathomed. We are aware of how people different than us have to put up with more than we could ever imagine. We are aware more than ever of the fragility of our world. We still have much to learn but we know that families are out of work, sick and mourning loved ones. I’m optimistic this experience transformed our character for the better. If anything, while we cut our communication, our capacity for compassion climbed.