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The Virtue of Videoing Violence

Illustration: Cathryn Virginia

Virtue “a quality considered morally good or desirable in a person”. In some cases the videoing of a violent act, gives us a birds eye view of a crime we would have never been made aware of. Police brutality, domestic violence, gang crimes, road rage etc… In a day and age in which shooting video is so easy that people often impulsively pull out their phones whenever there’s any kind of excitement.

Ok this one is scary. Wall gave out last night during a rush of water while a train was coming and took someone out #subwaycreatures. https://twitter.com/i/status/1151875430699474945

We’d all rather record a clip for likes than actually do some good in the world. But the knee-jerk reactions to this clip — and plenty like it — may actually have things wrong. (Not for nothing, the clip itself also ends with someone walking toward the man; it’s possible he was ultimately helped.) Research shows the presence of cameras makes people more likely to intervene when they see someone in danger — not less.

Linus Andersson is a lecturer in media and communication studies at Halmstad University in Sweden, who with his colleague Ebba Sundin is in the process of securing funding to research why people film instead of help. Though Andersson has no concrete answers on why this might be the case, he has some ideas.

Filming gives people agency when they might otherwise feel unable, or unwilling, to step in and lend a hand.

And while there isn’t a lot of existing research on why people feel the urge to film a crisis with their phones, there is some literature suggesting that people are more likely to help when a camera is present.

It stands to reason that more research needs to be done on how the presence of a phone affects bystander behavior. If the presence of cameras — which most phones now have, not to mention the oppressive ubiquity of security cameras — encourages bystander intervention, but talking on the phone decreases the likelihood that you’ll help someone, where are we left? It’s hard to say, but we’re probably not as “heartless” as pessimists would have us believe.

Maybe you’re in the parking lot of a grocery store or shopping mall. Perhaps you’re out for a walk in your neighborhood and see someone getting victimized. What do you do?

Some of us would try to help in some way, if it appeared it was safe to do so. Others would just call police and let them deal with it. And a few would say, ‘I’m minding my business,’ and keep right on going.

The decision about interfering isn’t always easy. It’s a split second judgment call that’s up to you.

“Assess if you feel comfortable.”“If you feel safe, if you’re expecting help to come and you feel comfortable and safe” get involved. “But if you feel uncomfortable contact police immediately. But at least contact police.”

Here’s one the most important things the experts say you should do if you’re ever confronted with such a situation.

Call Police: The first and most important thing you can do. Emergency number 911 is free from all cell and pay phones. No matter what else you do, this should be your first step. But please don’t take video or pictures of the worst moments of someones life, and post them for clicks and likes!

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