Greg Knauss on The Empathy Vacuum

Greg Knauss created a fun little iOS app called Romantimatic that reminds you to text your significant other just to say things like “Hello,” “I’m thinking about you,” or “I love you.” It’s clever and appeals to people who are, in Greg’s words, “distracted or forgetful.” We all know someone like that (and I’m sure we all are someone like that sometimes).

Apparently, it’s also the worst thing that could have ever been created by mankind, because Greg has endured the brunt of cynical, public abuse. Apparently, if you don’t remember to do something nice for someone you care about, it means you’re a horrible monster and you don’t really care. Or something.

In “The Empathy Vacuum,” he writes about that experience but goes much deeper into the heart of the problem.

So what’s the difference? Why is mechanical help with relationships out of bounds, but help with weight control not? Why is one type of self-improvement aid worse than the other?

The difference, for me, comes down to empathy. We — the majority of us — need help with our weight. (Note to international readers: I’m an American. Seriously, the majority of us need help with our weight.) It’s an easy enough problem to understand. Ice cream is delicious, exercise sucks, and so a little nudge in the right direction is appropriate, even appreciated.

But we — the majority of us — apparently do not need help remembering to text our significant other. (Or — cough — think we don’t.)

And that’s the difference, isn’t it? What we can imagine ourselves doing, or needing, or wanting. Those people who don’t need the help feel free to judge those who do.

Personally, I think that if you’re thoughtful enough to add a reminder to say something nice to someone, that’s as good as spontaneously remembering it. The point is to express that feeling. There’s too much pressure out there to conform to how one is “supposed” to express emotion or act romantically, we don’t need more guilt and crap.

Go read the whole thing. It’s excellent.

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