Does anonymity lead to lack of empathy?

In this article, news commentator Alan Colmes wrote about a man named Angel Arce Torres, 79, who died from being hit by a speeding vehicle.  In this disturbing video, there were many passer-bys who witnessed the accident, but did not react.

Has society lost its moral compass that people do not react when these incidents occur? Mr Colmes also referred to the Kitty Genovese murder case in 1964, when she was being stabbed to death on the street, no one did anything to alert the police or perhaps to stop the stabbing despite 38 witnesses being able to hear her screams.

This was a classic example of Bystander Effect, which people diffuse their responsibility because they believe someone else would take a lead responsibility role.  This occurs because people do not want to take personal responsibility for these crimes.  They prefer not to be involved.  They are afraid that they could make the situation worse because they lack the expertise to deal with the situation.  The manner to which people can get involved would be assign specific duties to any passer-bys.  For example, If you are in the public library, and plan on leaving your belongings unattended, ask someone specifically to watch your belongings, otherwise, they simply would not take any responsibility.

Similar to the above video, this behavior exists online.  This article discusses how because of anomie, empathy is removed and people suffer from “Internet Asperger’s Syndrome,” although I disagree with the terminology, similar to this video, there is the element of anonymity that leads to a mob mentality which people psychologically suffer.   The author coined the term Asperger’s Syndrome because of the nature of this disorder where a person lacks empathy and communication skills, while focusing on specific behaviors which may become obsessive.  In the case of the online community, the obsessive behaviors would include checking email, twittering, blogging and not being able to connect with other people, and viewing them as objects rather than individuals.

This author believes that in some cases due to the environment which anonymity occurs,  people in the online community’s goal is to inflict as much psychological suffering as possible on another human being, and he called it “Harris’ Law.”

I totally disagree.  I think it is the classic case of Bystander Effect and Grouthink, which leads behaviors that range from apathetic to being an active participant. What do you all think?


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