A few days ago, a post on social media caught my eye. It was from a friend who was commenting on a number of films they were seeing on their news posts. These posts featured acts of bullying, which had been filmed by people who were clearly present at the time of these incidents and doing nothing to stop the abuse. Some were actively involved in the abuse.
In all of these posts there were upsetting, and visible acts of violence being used against another person. The violence was clearly both physical and verbal.
In a number of ways those who come across these posts, themselves become bystanders to the act. For me my friend raises a number of questions which although uncomfortable, need both our attention and action.
Why is it, that in many cases, we either watch the film that has been posted, we quickly scroll past it because we know what is being depicted is wrong or we decide to hide it to make sure we will never see it again. In some cases, I know that people actually share these photos and videos. Some share to highlight the issue, I get that. Some share also, without really thinking of what they are sharing. Some share just for the laugh and the attention.
Despite some of us being uncomfortable with these films, have we in many ways become ‘comfortably numb’ to the impact that these films have on those who are the victims in these events?
Furthermore, have we forgotten the simple fact that any form of violence involves power being taken away from a victim? I’m sure that any victim of violence is desperate to distance themselves from these deeply impactful events and proceed with their lives. Does our silence, our inaction or sharing of the post actually prevent a victim from moving forward.
Do we in many ways do exactly what the perpetrator was hoping to achieve?
Do we take even more power away from the victim?
Do we give more power to the abuser?
I think we do and more.
So, what’s the answer? What can we do when faced with these posts.
The first thing we can do is to think before we do anything. Think about the victim. Think about the others that are seeing this post. Whilst others will be as upset as you. Don’t assume they will act. Psychology suggests that they are thinking exactly the same as you. That’s someone else will do something. Believe me, it’s unlikely they will do anything. So, it’s up to you, right? Dam right it is.
So, what can you do? Here’s some ways to be that active bystander when you witness this form of abuse online.
1. I will repeat what I’ve just said – DON’T ASSUME OTHERS WILL DO SOMETHING, DO IT YOURSELF.
2. Report it – Facebook/Twitter etc don’t tolerate these types of posts. If you see anything that is upsetting best to report it. That way it can be removed. You’ve just helped a victim. Be proud. Give yourself a pat on the back.
3. Tell others what you’ve done. It’s highly likely that others will have spotted this post and will have been uncomfortable to. They are likely to respect your position and you action. Your action will support them to act in the future. By the way well done – you’ve just combatted the bystander effect.
4. If the post has been shared by a friend – speak to them. You can send them a message to highlight what they have posted. No one likes confrontation. Consider pointing out what they have posted and how it can make it worse for a victim of abuse. Ask them to remove it. If they don’t, report it. Your friend doesn’t have to know it was you. Remember there will be many others seeing this. It could have been anyone.
5. The original post I mention above from my friend was clear. It didn’t show the film. The post simply communicated her dislike of these films. In many ways my friend communicated to victims that they are a potential ally for them. In a climate of abuse, we can all be allies to victims. Be that person you would want if you were a victim.
In our society we have become numb to certain acts. This numbing of our morals is dangerous and just what violence wants. Violence is a wicked problem that requires a multitude of responses. Be part of that response. Be the solution not the problem.