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Is our addiction to social media turning us into de-sensitised monsters?

What we have become?

We've all heard about the bystander effect, which by definition is "when the presence of others hinders an individual from intervening in an emergency situation".

It's not illegal - not in this country anyway - but it's cowardly and immoral. However, what we saw on the street of a small city in Ireland this week was worse - much, much worse.

Last Tuesday morning a two-year-old girl, Daenerys Crosbie, was struck by a lorry on Manor Street in Waterford. She was pronounced dead soon after she was taken to hospital.

It's the stuff of every parent's nightmare. The worst thing that could ever happen in a parent's life.

In this case the child's mother, Carole Anne, also suffered minor injuries, but her daughter died. An awful, heart-breaking tragedy.

And what did the "bystanders" do? If it had been nothing we could, perhaps, forgive them. But some did worse than nothing.

Some treated this horrific tragedy like some entertainment they were entitled to record for their own amusement or, perhaps, for the amusement of others.

According to a post on Waterford City Fire Service's Facebook page, crew at the scene were "astounded by the number of people trying to capture the incident on their phones". Jesus. H. Christ, people. Have you all gone insane?

There's the worst sort of accident in front of you - involving a mother and her child - and you stop to film it on your smart-phone?

Not only that, but you get in the way of the professional crew who have been called out to try to save the lives of the victims involved?

I couldn't actually believe that people could be so disgustingly, stupidly callous.

Then I read this statement from a Waterford firemen regarding another incident: "A man crept up, phone poised and recording, to within 10ft or so of a car where we were trying to extricate the driver while the ambulance crew were treating him. The driver died en route to the hospital."

Whatever happened to respect, to empathy, to simple manners? But seemingly, the phenomena of people taking out their phones to record tragic accidents is widespread.

John Kidd of the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association, said that members of the public often take out their phones while driving to capture images of crashes.

Have we really become that desensitised to the suffering of others?

Has the fact that most of us now carry our own personal filming equipment in our pockets mean we treat every tragedy of a stranger as a potential social media blockbuster?

Do we think uploading images of a dying person on Instagram or Twitter will get us a bigger response?


Why do so many people not know where to draw the line where social media is involved? Is it because it doesn't seem real? Do we think that watching these tragedies through the lens of a camera somehow makes them distant to us and therefore irrelevant?

I know, as a parent and human being that if I saw images of an accident of anyone I knew and loved put up on social media, I would explode with rage.

I would want to hunt down whoever had been so cruel and ignorant as to think that was an amusing thing to do and tell them, in no uncertain terms, what a sad piece of humanity they were for doing it.

We, rightly, are always amazed at the notion that our forebears thought a public hanging was an acceptable afternoon's entertainment for a child to see - or a criminal being pelted in the stocks. What were they thinking?

Today we pride ourselves on being far more civilised and educated. But some of us haven't progressed that far at all.

There are still those who will drag us back to the Dark Ages when life was short, nasty, brutish, and one person's tragedy was another's entertainment. Stop them.