Recognizing Pathogenic Empathy in Social Media
Empathy is an integral part of human social life, as people care about and for others who experience adversity. However, a specific “pathogenic” form of empathy, marked by automatic contagion of negative emotions, can lead to stress and burnout. This is particularly detrimental for individuals in caregiving professions who experience empathic states more frequently, because it can result in illness and high costs for health systems. Automatically recognizing pathogenic empathy from text is potentially valuable to identify at-risk individuals and monitor burnout risk in caregiving populations. We build a model to predict this type of empathy from social media language on a data set we collected of users’ Facebook posts and their answers to a new questionnaire measuring empathy. We obtain promising results in identifying individuals' empathetic states from their social media (Pearson r = 0.252, p <0.003).