How Can Humans Become More Humane?

Human history is filled with aggression, violence, betrayal, greed, and other negative acts. How can we become more humane?

While there are plenty of instances of people treating each other with grace and dignity, the opposite is alarmingly common. And all too often, the underlying cause is suspicion and mistrust of the other.

It is easy to understand bad behavior when life and death is on the line. If my family is going to starve, I might steal your food to feed them. That may not be right, but it makes sense.

However, what do we make of more abstract differences? Why do we attack or enslave someone else because their skin color is different from ours? Or they pray to a different god? Or they speak a different language?

There may be an evolutionary cause to our behavior. A person who mistrusted others in different tribal groups may have been more likely to survive into adulthood and have offspring. We may be hardwired that way.

Now however, that same behavior is counterproductive at best, and actively destructive at worst. We can see divisions growing between groups for the simplest of reasons. People are insulted and attacked online, which ruins the experience for everyone. Misogyny, homophobia, racism all run rampant in today’s society.

Is there any way we can improve things? Can we train ourselves to treat others with respect and compassion, even if we don’t know them? Can we overcome our baser instincts and be more humane? On a personal level, what do you do if you suspect you might be succumbing to your darker nature?

Related questions: How can we encourage meaningful conversation? Why do we hate? How can you love someone who does something you hate? Why does social media often bring out the worst in us?

Why Does Social Media Often Bring Out The Worst In Us?

Most social media platforms run rampant with insults, bullying, misinformation, and other unpleasant behavior. Why?

The Internet promised to revolutionize society. It provides a publishing platform to anyone who wants one. Collaboration, even among geographically distant people, becomes simple. A previously unheard of amount of information is available at our fingertips, at any time of day or night.

All these things are true — along with other benefits — but there is a dark side to the Internet as well. After more than a decade since the introduction of social media platforms, our society is more divided than any time in recent memory. People live in echo chambers of their beliefs, and emerge only to call others names. No one actually talks to people with differing viewpoints, and on the rare instances that they do, no one listens.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘How can we encourage debate?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’


There are many possible reasons for this. The Internet in general, and social media outlets in particular, allow for anonymity. This shields individuals from the consequences of their speech, emboldening them to lash out. Even if your name is attached to everything you say, typing on the keyboard of a computer is different from saying the same thing to someone else’s face.

And while the Internet makes it easier to meet people with similar hobbies or interests, it also makes it easier for those with bigoted or prejudiced ideas to find like-minded individuals across the country.

These are just some of the reasons people are nasty to each other online. Can you think of others? Have there been times when you said something online you would later regret? Why do you think that is?

Why does social media often bring out the worst in us? What changes could be made to improve things?
Related questions: What do you get out of social media? What makes us comment on social media? Why do we hate? How can we encourage meaningful conversation?

What Is Your Definition Of Evil?

Someone might be misguided, bad, or even horrible. But what must they do to be called evil?

Do you have a definition of “evil”, whether that includes an action, a person, or a group?

Related questions: Why are bad words bad? How important is the artist to art? What does it mean to be a good person? Why do we hate?

How Can You Change Your Attitude?

There are times when, to overcome an obstacle of some sort, all you need to do is change your attitude. But how can this be done?

Some common emotions, like frustration or anger, don’t actually accomplish much. Typically, they don’t help you to arrive at a solution any sooner. They can even make thinking other thoughts difficult.

A change of attitude is called for. If, instead of anger, you approach a situation with curiosity, better results may occur. Or empathy, or determination, or even no thoughts at all.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How can we maintain wonder?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you think others see you?’


But this is easier said than done. Negative emotions can be overwhelming. drowning out everything else. They can also be counterproductive, going so far as to sabotage positive, or helpful thoughts.

So what tricks or coping mechanisms have you found to help you change your approach? How can you change your attitude?

Related questions: How can we turn sadness into constructive action? Why do we hate? What is the right amount of emotion? How can we turn ideas into actions?