Why bystanders (don’t) post about violence: Contextualizing individual versus socialized rationales of observers’ publication intentions

Bayerl, P. S., Shahid, S., & Moitroux, P. (2023). Why bystanders (don’t) post about violence: Contextualizing individual versus socialized rationales of observers’ publication intentions. Social Media + Society, 9(1)

Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/20563051221150414

Open access: Yes

Notes: In this article, the authors aim to address what motivates or hinders individuals from posting pictures of violence online. To achieve this, they draw from two previous lines of work: 1) action frames, focused on what motivates actors (embedded in communities) to act, and 2) bystander model, focused on whom individuals act or not in reaction to particular incidents of violence. In this context, authors found a wide range of socialized (e.g., create awareness, promote discussion, motivate action) and individualized rationales (e.g., provide evidence, help the victim) to explain why people post violent images on social media. Additionally, they also analyzed reasons for not posting violent content, which include the following rationales such as “it is not my problem,” “it is not a cause I believe in,” and fear of negative consequences for oneself, the perpetrator, the victim, or the audience.” Overall, this study illustrates the “complex net of considerations by bystanders that either increase or decrease their willingness to share depictions of violence online.” (p. 13)

Abstract: Pictures of violence form an important element in today’s news media and political online discussions. Many of these images are uploaded by bystanders, that is, people without clear links to the events. In this article, we investigate publication intentions of bystanders when confronted with disparate violent scenes. Using a two-step approach of online survey and follow-up interviews, we illustrate how bystanders rationalize the possible publication of violence online along individualized and socialized rationales. The resulting framework offers a systematic view on conditions that shape publication and non-publication intentions. Overall, our study offers important contributions by linking individual and collective perspectives on online content production as well as a re-appreciation of bystanders that includes the possibility of non-publication as moral choice.

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