PETALING JAYA: In times of crisis, there are social media users who, instead of helping those in need, will use the platform to highlight what they witnessed to gain likes and followers, said a clinical psychologist.
Dr Cassandra Aasmundsen-Fry said those who do not call for help during tragic events but assume that someone else will, are considered to be victims of the “bystander effect”.
The bystander effect or bystander apathy refers to a socio-psychological theory which states that individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim in the presence of others.
“The more people who witness an event, the more likely someone will assume somebody else will help,” said Cassandra.
“It is common to be curious and have a natural need to share what they have witnessed. However, their act is not because they are unconcerned. It is more appropriate to say that they lack responsibility as the incident does not concern them.
“There are some people who are likely to take videos of events such as car crashes or robberies and post them on social media to gain hits and followers,” she told theSun.
Cassandra said people often post news and experiences on social media that support their views on social problems.
From a psychological point of view, Cassandra said people are social creatures who look to others to establish safety, feel supported and create positive feelings.
“It is becoming more common for people to express themselves on social media when it comes to controversial and emotional content as it helps them feel empowered to act.
“In this way, the person copes with emotions and tries to help others by furthering a cause.”
Cassandra said social media is a double edged sword. It is admirable how it could effectively connect people, especially those who struggle to connect personally with others.
“Social media has allowed many to nurture friendships and as an outlet to express themselves. But some may feel more isolated or depressed when comparing their lives with others on social media,” she said.
However, posting content about an event on social media is not always a bad thing, Cassandra said, “Some content could serve to raise awareness of an issue the community is facing. For example, warning others about kidnappings or assaults and how to stay safe.
“Sometimes social media posts provide overlooked details that could be crucial in a criminal case. However, private and sensitive information should be shared directly with the police.
“There is a vast difference between sharing a video of a road crash to raise awareness and posting insensitive materials like pictures of injured victims and those in pain.
“Such pictures should be used with permission to raise awareness of an important issue,” she said.
Cassandra said social media adds a layer of distance that dehumanises people’s suffering. “In cases of incidents, it is better to be safe than sorry. It is much better to receive 10 calls for help than none at all.
“If you feel the need to post about events you have witnessed, ask yourself why you feel the need to do so. Does it increase awareness of a cause or help others?”