The Importance of Overcoming the Bystander Effect
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Student Life

Don't Be A Bystander

The Bystander Effect has become a plague.

Don't Be A Bystander

We've all felt it. Something breaks, and we expect someone else to alert a person in charge. Someone hurts themselves, and we wait for another person to call 911. A teacher asks a question in class, and we wait for someone else to answer.

The Bystander Effect is a unique phenomenon that is present in groups of larger people but often happens as a passive effect. The agent (the bystander) oftentimes wants to pass the responsibility onto other people. This applies to simple things like expecting their roommate to wash the dishes, or expecting other people to call the police in an emergency situation.

Other people worry about their social perception if they were to pursue the actions necessary. For example, if a teacher asks a question, the agent doesn't want to seem like a "teacher's pet" or "overzealous" by answering the question or to look dumb if their answer is wrong.

In summation, the Bystander Effect is a suppression of action due to situational or social influences. This passivity works, sometimes. Well, rarely. Almost never, actually.

The consequences of not taking actions greatly outweigh the consequences of acting. To continue the above examples, what happens when no one answers the teacher's question? You sit in awkward silence for what feels like an eternity. In an emergency situation? Someone's life could be in danger.

Actively fighting against the bystander effect can have a huge impact on yourself and the world around you. People say that having a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is important for mental wellness. By being more active and aware of the Bystander Effect, you can develop a PMA.

Let's say your teacher asks a question, and you answer immediately. The teacher appreciates that you are engaged and becomes more involved in their lesson. It also passively encourages your other classmates to be more active in class.

Because of your actions, you had a much more enjoyable class. What if you did that for every class? And at work? And while walking down the street? You're making others' and your day much better simply because you aren't living passively. And it started by answering some mundane questions about F. Scott Fitzgerald at 9:30 am.

The Bystander Effect also extends farther into larger spheres. For example, activism in politics. People tend to sit back, waiting for someone else to make the move to counter certain legislation or not to attend various movements or rallies because other people will. This may be the result of general apathy, but the concept of the Bystander Effect still applies.

Well, how do we push against the Bystander Effect?

Simply put, it takes an active person to break the mold. Not a weightlifter or a marathon runner, but a person who puts themselves out there. Actions produce results (albeit negative ones on occasion). Just remember: if you don't do it, no one else will.

Start small by complimenting a person's shirt, commenting to a stranger about an event, or even going out of your way to do a favor. Those actions are so rare in recent times that their occurrence starts a positive movement through people. People may look at you like the crazy person on the bus, but they cannot fault you for trying to be nice.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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