The cell phone — it’s a technological advancement that continues to grow to this day. Almost every year, new upgrades are being added to further such advancements, such as new applications, extended battery life, and higher quality video resolution.
But what exactly are these video advancements being used for? Are they really doing us any better?
Let’s talk about the videos posted online. You may not have watched some of them, but you’ve probably at least heard about them. Let’s take more relevant and specific examples then, such as the video depicting a South Carolina police officer violently arresting a student in a classroom, or the pornographic audio being leaked onto Target PA systems during regular shopping hours.
All of these events were recorded, but each had one distinct similarity: no one was actively trying to help or find out what was going on.
So what is it, we wonder, that makes the instinct to pull out your cell phone to start recording stronger than the instinct to help or to simply figure out what is going on?
Katie Stephenson, a Texas State University graduate student, shared her concerns over the matter.
“The saying ‘pics or it didn't happen’ is a sad truth in today's society,” Stephenson said. “It's one thing for people to be able to explain a situation they saw, but an entirely different one when they can have it documented, allowing for more people to see and be able to give their reactions on the site.”
Another graduate student, David Prosser, felt that this instinct is definitely something to be concerned about in today’s society, as “it takes less effort to help than to try and become famous.”
“I think (the instinct to record over taking action) is tragic and harmful,” Prosser said. “There will be less ‘good samaritanism’ and more wannabe Michael Moore's out there. People will be injured and those that could have survived won’t because people want to get it on a Vine or a Snap.”
With regards to injury and those that could have survived, there was also a case in June 2015 where an Ohio man, following a fatal car crash, chose to record the incident as a lesson to his Facebook peers rather than help the two teenagers inside the vehicle. One of those teenagers later died of his injuries.
Bob Fischer, an assistant philosophy professor at Texas State University, weighed in on this incident in particular, as well as “the blending of real and virtual worlds.”
“What’s bizarre about (the Ohio car crash) is this remarkable level of attachment that the individual seems to have,” Fischer said. “So I can see you bleeding on the side of the road, and yet rather than see you as a potential object of concern, I see you as an object lesson. So how it is that that person isn’t real enough to arouse sympathy is pretty remarkable.”
In the 1960s, the phenomenon known as ‘The Bystander Effect’ came to the surface, which, according to Psychology Today, is defined as when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation.
With the rise of social media, critics have come to include the recording and posting of incidents such as the ones listed above as a part of the phenomenon.
Accounting graduate Beth Clem believes that this inclusion is well warranted.
“When some event happens, inevitably film will surface from the scene,” Clem said. “The only way this is possible is if people are whipping out their cell phones in distressing situations.”
So what is it that we can say about these individuals who chose to record these kinds of events? Is it a problem with the blending of reality and the virtual world? What is it about the potential of getting likes or views that override the instinct to be a Good Samaritan?
Bob Fischer said that the idea was something he would still have to think about.
“I mean, there’s something weird going on there about the blending of real and virtual worlds,” Fischer said. “And that says a lot about the way that the social media has altered the way we engage with individuals and understand who’s present and who’s salient in situations.”