As we discussed bystander effect this week, one thing that wasn’t mentioned is the effect of social media and the bystander effect. Today, it should be easier than ever to call 911 in an emergency situation as practically everyone has a cellphone. However, instead of pulling out a cellphone to call 911, bystanders use it to record the situation on the sideline without helping. Nir and Dollinger (2019) report that during a wild after-school brawl erupted outside a Long Island strip mall, people didn’t step in to help, worse, they stood there and record the fight and a teen’s, who was stabbed in the chest, suffering. Levine (2018) states that when she stopped to help a woman who was bleeding on her head and neck at a subway platform in New York City, people took their phone out, not to call 911, but to record the scene. These are just two examples but there are many more situations just like these in the news. It seems that the bystander effect has reached its worst time yet.
Latane and Nida (1981) explain that diffusion of responsibility which refers to the knowledge that others are present and available to help, allows the shifting of responsibility for helping the victims. However, the bystander effect in the age of social media not only diffuses responsibility , but allows bystanders to take it to the next level by actively watching victims suffer, so they can record the situation to post on their social media later. Surprisingly, there’s not many researches out there yet regarding social media and the bystander effect. However, Dr. Dara Greenwood, a psychology professor with Vassar College, who was cited in Pittaro’s (2019) article, explains that the attention that bystanders, especially young adults, received from capturing and posting such video which then leads to the feeling of ‘optimal distinctiveness,’ is the motivation. If Kitty Genovese’s murder happened today, it would be all over the social media. While social media is not all bad as it has helped solve crimes in the past, researchers and policymakers should pay close attention to the effect of social media and the bystander effects as it is getting worse. Today, more so than ever, bystanders lack empathy and are largely desensitized to violence and crime scenes (Pittaro, 2019). Furthermore, teachers and parents need to teach their students and kids what it means to be an active bystander. More importantly, teach them that it’s not ok to watch and record someone’s sufferings, especially for “likes” on social media!
Latané, B., & Nida, S. (1981). Ten years of research on group size and helping. Psychological Bulletin, 89(2), 308-324. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.89.2.308
Levine, A. S. (2018, July 30). New York Today: The City’s Bystander Effect. Retrieved November 5, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/30/nyregion/new-york-today-bystander-effect.html.
Nir, S. M., & Dollinger, A. (2019, September 17). Oceanside Stabbing: After a Brawl, Teenagers Gawked as a Boy Lay Dying. Retrieved November 5, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/17/nyregion/ny-teen-murder-oceanside.html?module=inline.
Pittaro, M. (2019, September 19). Social Media and The Bystander Effect. Retrieved November 5, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-crime-and-justice-doctor/201909/social-media-and-the-bystander-effect.