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'Bystander effect': It’s not my fight so I will film it

What has happened to humanity that we find it easy to film acts of violence and share them on social media with complete strangers but find it hard to offer a hand to someone in need?

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According to website www.psychologytoday.com, the bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation. Social psychologists Bibb Latané and John Darley popularized the concept following the infamous 1964 Kitty Genovese murder in New York City.


In the past few months I have seen videos on bullying, child abuse, domestic abuse, hijackings and road rage all shared on social media with the line of ‘share this video, let’s make it go viral and stop this from happening again’. 


When we post these videos and comment on them under the guise of wanting to ‘spread social awareness’, we are actually making perpetrators famous and excusing the filmer for not intervening and stopping the situation.


One example of this is the recent video of a Durban taxi driver assaulting a woman in his taxi.The incident was filmed and shared on Facebook more than 12,000 times. It was picked up by news publications and broadcasters- all wanting to be the first to expose their audience to the latest viral piece of content out there.

In an interview with East Coast radio Newswatch, the filmer said he ‘wanted to help the woman, but couldn't do anything to assist - for fear he would be shot or injured’. On one hand‚ sharing the footage creates awareness and can lead to the perpetrator being punished. This is true for all videos we share.


On the other hand the footage can be just as damaging to the victim who is forced to relive the ordeal every time the visuals surface.


Yes many questioned why the guy filming the video did not intervene, but many also defended him saying he did something good by capturing the incident because now it was evidence.  But is that a good enough reason to not put down your camera or phone and make a conscientious effort to help someone obviously in need of your urgent help? Have social media platforms become the ultimate example of the bystander effect where nobody does anything because they assume someone else will?


I am in no way attacking the man behind the lens. I am more concerned for humanity. Do we blame Youtube? Do we blame the easy access to smart phones and the need to constantly capture something?


What has happened to humanity that we find it easy to film acts of violence and share them on social media with complete strangers but find it hard to offer a hand to someone in need?


Remember the horrific video of bullying at a Stellenbosch High School? The video, filmed at Luckhoff Hoërskool, showed a schoolgirl sitting on a desk banging another schoolgirl’s head on the desk, kicking her and pulling her by her hair.


There were many versions of this video shared on social media, but not once in any of these did you see another pupil come to the aid of the girl being attacked.


What about the video showing a Durban taxidriver being attacked for 'driving badly'?


The attacker was praised for assaulting the driver. The video had 193,141 views. Again it was another one of those let's film it and share it but not help cases.


What we should be asking ourselves are what about those video victims? How do they feel knowing their pain has been shared thousands of times for people to comment on? How do they recover? How do they face the world? I wonder how many of them would thank the filmer? Would you?

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