A really provocative column today in the Washington Post by Kathleen Parker: Steubenville, social media and the bystander effect.
From that piece:
With a cellphone in every pocket, it has become second nature for most people to snap a picture or tap the video button at the slightest provocation — a baby’s giggle, a fallen tree or, just possibly, a drunk girl stripped naked by boys who don’t think twice. Over time, might the marginalizing effect of bystander detachment impede any impulse to empathize ?
Endowed with miraculous gadgetry and fingertip technology that allow reflex to triumph over reason, millions of young people today have the power to parlay information without the commensurate responsibility that comes with age, experience and, inevitably, pain.
The ease of cellphone photography and videography promotes a certain removal from circumstances, driving all into the bystander mode that leads to a massive shirking of responsibility and perhaps even a lack of cognitive awareness of one’s own part in the moment.
The growing use of social media, the power of user-generated content, and the ethics of image publication and distribution routinely come up in the journalism courses that I teach at Armstrong Atlantic State University. All those issues come into play in the aftermath of the convictions in the Steubenville rape case.
Parker’s column manages to consider that incident in a broader context that includes the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese, who was not aided by any of the dozens of neighbors who heard part of the attack, and the famous photograph that Eddie Adams took of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan shooting Viet Cong operative Nguyen Van Lem.
It’s hard to cover so much ground so well in a newspaper column.