Victims With Faces

Conor asks:

In a more connected world, where faraway people and events are less abstract than ever before, is familiarity going to breed more empathy or contempt?

His live-blogging Japan sparked the thought:

[S]eeing video of communities as they were ravaged by the tsunami, reading tweets from Japanese survivors and nervous Hawaiians that streamed in beside photographs of their faces, seeing Vimeo profiles of people that shot hand-held camcorder footage of waves destroying their town -- it changed how I thought about the people affected. They were less abstract than the faceless victims of the 2004 tsunami, and a lot more like the high school kid who drowned while surfing at a nearby beach, or the families up the street whose houses burned down during the last wildfire, or the folks in the hills across town hoping the first rain of the season doesn't bring mudslides.