It is almost becoming normative that people the world-over are choosing to take videos of human distress rather than attempt to help another in a situation of distress.
Our local print media is replete with stories of people being badly beaten while others are standing around making videos of the said act. The popular WhatsApp platform is often full of videos of violent content taken in schools, on the streets and even in private homes.
Although one can argue that such posts serve the purpose of helping to apprehend perpetrators of the crime, there is something deeper that ought to be considered. It is not enough to say that posting videos serves a legal function and, ‘this is reality’. Human beings ought to reflect on consequences of attitudes and behaviour over the long haul.
Firstly, via the screen, it is very easy to become desensitised to violence due to frequency of exposure to same. Secondly, screen exposure to violence brings with it an inability after a while, to distinguish between the “reel” and the “real”. This can turn life itself into a movie that we walk away from when the entertainment is finished.
The two aforementioned results of overexposure to screen violence clearly impact society negatively. Posting videos of violence on social media brings the two together with far-reaching moral and social consequences.
The craze to post videos of pain, suffering and human tragedy is not only a sign of growing insensitivity to the victims and their family and loved ones, but it is also symptomatic of a society descending into one of bystanders. A bystander society is not one in which we would like to live.
A bystander society is one of little social engagement with one another. It is one in which individualism and immediate gratification are the order of the day. It is one that Bob Marley sang about in the memorable words, “How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look.”
It is one in which pain and tragedy is not any one person’s responsibility, but somebody else’s. It is a society in which diffused responsibility trumps the human reflex to help another human being in need. We must be careful that we do not become bystanders amidst the tragedy of life.
It is better to have and to work for a society of Good Samaritans who engage human pain and suffering rather than become a society who routinely “walk to the other side” (via the preparing of the social media post).
The incarnation of Jesus Christ, the gospel and all of Christian doctrine are indications that we are not living out Christianity at its best when choose to be bystanders taping a human tragedy. We are called to be people who engage society in all its muck and grime.
We cannot stand aside and record and not engage immediate pain without getting help for those in distress.