The Dark Side of Social Media
Social media may bring us all closer together, but as its many critics have pointed out, it also permits collective responsibility to diffuse as people hide behind their screens and fade into anonymity. Experts have cited this as the reason behind the biggest uptick in cyberbullying and harassment we’ve seen over the past ten years.
But how far is too far?
After a 15-year-old girl in Chicago went missing last week, no one could have imagined that her horrifying ordeal at the hands of six abusers would go viral on Facebook Live… or that as many as 40 people would watch it and do nothing to help.
The Bystander Effect
The bystander effect is strong, even in real life, so it’s no surprise that people feel even less inclined to help those in need if witnessing something on the Internet. And that’s no surprise: How is someone supposed to know if what they’re watching is real or not? Is the video being filmed one house over or halfway around the world? What would you even say to police?
In real life, we know that this bystander apathy can be lethal. From massive historical situations like the Holocaust to the tragic murder of Kitty Genovese, who was assaulted and killed as neighbors watched or listened. Simply assuming someone else will help out is a risky mistake to make, even if we know that getting involved can be dangerous.
People rarely know how to react appropriately in times of emergency. For this reason… if you ever find yourself needing assistance from people around you, make sure you single them out, making them feel more responsible because they are specifically being called.
Two weeks ago, a 15-year-old girl from Chicago went missing.
Earlier that day, she had been dropped off at home after spending the weekend with her uncle, Reginald King. They even went to church together before parting.
And though no one knew where she went, the next time that King saw his niece was on a Facebook Live video in a nightmare scenario.
Though it sounds like the worst Black Mirror plot, King was tipped off by a local teenager that his niece was being filmed in a Facebook Live video… where she was being sexually assaulted and gang raped by six people.
At least 40 people were watching the video, but nobody — save the teen who tipped off the girl’s uncle — did anything to help or stop the assault.
“It was very, very graphic. She’s pulled toward the bed,” King later reported. “There were adults who saw this. None of them had the wherewithal to say, ‘Hey, I gotta call someone.'”
The girl’s mother had to watch the video at the police station in order to identify her daughter. Here’s what her family had to say.