How Video Creates Empathy in an Online World

November 14, 2019

It’s no secret that we have a problem connecting these days. Many of us spend our workdays looking at screens. We email before we make a call. We call before we schedule an in person meeting. And, how many of us are guilty of using the internal office messaging system (hello, Slack) before we walk 10 feet to our coworker’s desk?

Of course, these tools are not inherently bad. They promote efficiency and faster workflow and organization. But, they also allow us to be lazy in our connectivity. After all, who has the time for meaningful exchange, especially when you’re constantly disengaged from human connection and zoned into your screen. 

The problem results in the numbness that occurs from disengagement. We begin to care even less about the dignity of other humans and think even more of our own comfort. We have an empathy problem, but screens aren’t going anywhere. So, we need to find a way to incorporate empathy into our digital practices. What does it mean to develop empathy in the age of social media?  How do we forge meaningful connections with our client base or with our coworkers?  

Empathy is the ability to understand another’s point of view to such a degree that you live vicariously through that person’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences (Webster). It’s about curiosity and vulnerability and storytelling. And, that is the essence of a good video. 

So, how do we meet people where they are?  How can we use video to cultivate empathy in our online world? 

1. Video tells a story 

Empathy is the result of seeking to connect. It’s putting yourself in another person’s narrative to fully understand and engage with their perspective. And, that’s exactly what a good video intends. 

It’s a simple concept. You’re more likely to remember and engage with something in a story format. Beginning. Middle. End. We are humans, and we like our narrative structure, our underdogs and happy endings.  

In fact, research shows that stories trigger a release of oxytocin, evoking a similar response of feelings and connectivity as a mother nursing her baby.   

“Stories make us remember and they make us care. The reason content marketing works isn’t artsy-fartsy. It’s because our brains are programmed for stories” (Crossfield). 

But, it’s so much more than that. Video is the closest you can get to experiencing something without being physically present. Stories provide an avenue for understanding complex realities and perspectives. A good video is relatable, no matter the message. It’s about connection. As humans, we know we are part of something bigger. And video allows the viewer to be transformed through an outside perspective and identify with a larger narrative.

2. Video is visual

Stating the obvious, are we? Perhaps, but it needs to be unpacked. The very essence of a video is what makes it more relatable and accessible than other media. It conveys what we cannot simply say or write. And, a visual is easier to follow, understand, and remember. 

In fact, viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in text. (Insivia)

It’s a combination of storytelling and an arousal of the senses that takes your experience to another level. Video communicates through multiple senses, inviting you to engage with the realness of what you’re viewing. It’s why we video conference instead of conference call. We get a full experience when we combine audio and video with powerful narrative storytelling. 

3. Video facilitates shared experience 

Webster also defines empathy as “the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.” 

Video is that “imaginative projection” that can be shared and experienced by people from various backgrounds and perspectives. It is a gateway to express emotion, invoke understanding, and create connections both online and in real life.

In a way that words and still images cannot, video gets us as close as we can to actual human interaction to forge a connection. A good video jumpstarts the road to empathetic understanding by creating an experience for your viewers. 

Video and audio marry to create a truly unique expression of an abstract message, like a corporate mission statement, or an otherwise-unexciting training manual. 

59% of executives say they would rather watch a video than read text (Wordstream).  That’s because video is alive, and like a person, it engages you and pulls you into an experience.

It gives you the power to craft a tone, evoke strong feelings, and shape the essence of a viewer’s experience.



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