Bystander Apathy: Why Do People Take Pictures Rather Than Help?

The other day, I saw a man who seemed to be in his early thirties, floundering in a deep ditch, trying to walk up the slope and get back on the road. From the way he moved and staggered, one could tell that he was struggling to accomplish his mission.

Standing right above the struggling young man were about four bystanders who did nothing to end his misery. Rather, they held high their phones and captured the moment.

Apathetic actions like this aren’t uncommon in recent times, and it makes me wonder; why do some people feel like it’s okay to trivialize other people’s pain? How can those people justify seeing another person in danger and not help? Is it cowardice, selfishness or ignorance?

Back in 1993, Kevin Carter took a photo of a malnourished African girl child who was on the brink of dying of starvation. The photo won him a Pulitzer prize even though he didn’t help the little girl as photographers were told not to touch famine victims as it could spread disease.

More recently, a fight broke out at a McDonald’s in Brooklyn. A 15-year-old girl was beaten by several other girls in front of a crowd of people. They all stood and watched, while one of them made a video of the violent event.

Eventually, people came to the girl’s aid, but it’s incredibly disturbing that someone’s first instinct was to record the incident rather than intervene or call for the police.

It seems exceptionally inhumane to stand by and record these types of incidents instead of making any effort to rectify the situation. It’s one thing to want to provide evidence, it’s another to ignore a human being in need.

In truth, journalists make career out of recording and reporting events to the public, and in turn perform one of the most vital roles in the society. However, context plays a very important role in this regard.

The rise of smartphones and social media has seen the advent of citizen journalism, which many now use as an excuse for taking photos and videos while others are in trauma, without helping.

While there’s nothing wrong in the journalistic act of recording events as they break, it is good to know just when to drop down the phone and give a helping hand.

 

Photo credit: Research Digest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *