Question: Is social networking destroying emotional intelligence?
Daniel Goleman: In other words, I think the real danger to social intelligence is from technologies that call our attention away from the present, particularly the focus on the person we’re with. There’s actually a new word in the English language that describes that moment when you’re with someone and they suddenly whip out their iPhone and go on Facebook or take a phone call and act as though you don’t exist, the word is pizzled. It’s a combination of puzzled and pissed off. I think we need that word.
Question: What is flaming?
Daniel Goleman: Since the beginning of the Internet, when it was called the ARPANET, it was only scientists who are on it. People have been familiar with the phenomenon called flaming. Flaming is a spectacular moment of loss of emotional intelligence. When someone is worked up, they’re agitated, they’re kind of hijacked by some emotion, and they sit down at their keyboard, they furiously type out a message to someone else and they hit send, and then they think, oh my God, what are they going to do when they get that. That’s flaming. And it happens because the human brain is designed for face-to-face interaction. It picks up thousands and thousands of cues in a split second, that tell us how to fine tune what we’re about to do to how the person is reacting to us right now. Online, there is no channel for this information. What happens in the brain is that those social cues inhibit our emotions, don’t do that, do this. Online, they’re disinhibited. There’s no information coming in so our more, what shall I say, our less desirable emotions can run rampant. And that’s the danger online. And I don’t… I don’t think that the human brain really has adapted to what online life does to us. You know, it’s like an experimented progress. What does it going to mean for our children, who spend how many hours of their lives alone, staring at a video screen, instead of out playing with other kids. Turns out that by playing with other kids, the brain… The brain is designed to be shaped by kids playing together, not by kids staring at a video monitor or online. So, you know, we’ll know the outcome in the future.