Which is more likely to happen? You get assaulted in a mall parking lot and someone comes to your aid, helps ward off the attacker and calls the police? Or, you get assaulted in a mall parking lot and someone holds up a cell phone and records it all the while providing commentary like, “Damn, she’s getting her ass beaten; someone should call the police?”
Just the fact that you have to pause for an instant and contemplate the answer is proof enough.
We are becoming a nation of cell phone cowards, legions of do-nothing iPhone creepers who think that helping a fellow man or woman stops and ends with pressing “record.”
I’ve been thinking about all of this more and more lately after seeing a recent news clip of two women fighting in our local Wal-Mart — the personal hygiene section, I might add — while a gaggle of Google-eyed, cell-phone cyclops looked on.
The video went viral, predictably, resulting in news coverage across the country.
We should take comfort, though; not all is lost. It seems a six-year-old boy stepped in during the brawl and beat one lady over the head with a shampoo bottle to make it stop. You can’t make this stuff up.
Intervene, or record?
There used to be a time in America when we rushed to each other’s aid. Now, we’re more likely to rush to capture someone’s distress for a chance at a snippet of YouTube fame.
Yes, there are exceptions. You surely could provide some real – or perhaps exaggerated, urban-myth – examples of person X dying while putting his own life at risk, or person Y getting sued trying to help break up an altercation. But, come on. You probably know someone who’s held a phone out the side window of his car and recorded a crash scene or assault or whatever before giving a single bit of thought whether the police and fire had been called, if the occupant had been killed or if the family had even been notified.
But that’s what Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are for, right?
We can now instantly post a photo or video of some tragedy and set into motion a chain of events leading to a Facebook instant message from a concerned “friend” that says, “I was on Facebook and I just saw a photo of a car just like yours. It’s rolled over and smashed in a ditch and I just wanted to make sure you or your kids are OK.”
Now I do not want to suggest that Facebook is not the way to break this kind of tragic news, and most likely the “friend” vis-à-vis Facebook is better suited at breaking this news to you than a police or hospital chaplain or the ER physician and a grief support team. After all, just last week they “liked” your recipe for red velvet cake, so now you have developed a lifelong bond.
This is the world we now live in. One where you can see a photo or a video of tragedy that befalls your family way before the hospital or the police notifies you.
My take: If it comes to a decision about whether or not you should intervene, it would be more acceptable and understandable if you just say, “I can’t, I couldn’t, I’m just not suited to get directly involved.” That is okay.
Not everyone has the physical gifts, aptitude, courage or even recklessness to jump in and try to stop whatever is happening. I get it. I’m an ER doc. It took me years to be comfortable in a crisis. I also know that we can be so overwhelmed with emotions that we get lost as to what our role should be and how we should respond. It has happened to me many times. It even happens to those (police, fire, military, nurses, physicians, etc.) who have made it a lifetime career to help in a crisis. But I’ll give you my other take on it.
If that cell phone in your hand is doing anything other than calling 911, then you are doing something wrong.
‘Watch a bully get a taste of his own medicine’
‘VIDEO: Teacher beaten by student’, ‘two girls fight in the cafeteria’, ‘thug beats up homeless man’, ‘car crashes into a ravine’, ‘man jumps from a bridge’, ‘raging house fire’.
Sure, you’ve seen these headlines and the associated videos.
Maybe you clicked upon them in some Facebook or Twitter feed. You might have paused the changer on a bit of trash journalism from a rerun of MSNBC’s “Caught on Camera.” This is voyeuristic garbage that, if bundled up and sent to deep space, would make an alien gaze upon it and decide humans are a decent source of easily harvested protein able to be sucked up raw with a dollop of horseradish and a squeeze of lemon. We are becoming a generation of spineless mollusks.
It’s sad, because even a slug will dive into a cabbage leaf.
Some of you might take offense to me calling you or your kid a coward or refuting the argument that his or her recording of the locker room fight between the gym teacher and the student was meant to provide “proof” or “to make sure those responsible were identified.” Please; that never crossed your kid’s mind. What did though, is this: “Dude, dude, this will look awesome on Twitter.”
Here is a bit for you to contemplate. I have yet to take care of a person who has been beaten to hell, whose first words were, “Gee, I hope someone recorded that.” Every time you watch a video of someone suffering, either by an accident, an assault, or even some fault of their own, know that the person on the other end of the camera is most likely doing little to stop it, exhibiting a callous disregard for the physical or emotional well being of the individual or their family. In many instances they compound the humiliation by either posting it or doing nothing to stop it.
We have become cell phone cowards, a new generation of do-nothing iPhone peepers and creepers.
One day perhaps you could be on the receiving end of one of these tragedies and your grief and your distress can be paraded for the whole world to see.
And get a million likes if you’re lucky.
Dr. Louis M. Profeta is an emergency physician practicing in Indianapolis. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Patient in Room Nine Says He's God.
Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org is welcomed.
Dr Louis M. Profeta is an emergency physician practicing in Indianapolis. He is one of LinkedIn's Top Voices and the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Patient in Room Nine Says He's God. Dr Louis holds a medical degree from the Indiana University Bloomington.