By IAN YEE
THE reaction on Twitter to Amanda Bynes’ all-too-familiar child star meltdown was as expected – lots of clever remarks, insults and, from her few remaining fans, counter-insults.
Having just gone through a whole lot of research on the diffusion of responsibility theory (aka the “bystander effect”) for our cover story last week, I think this should go down as another case study of the phenomenon – just like Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and all the other public meltdowns we’ve followed through the Internet.
The diffusion of responsibility theory – studied and observed countless times since it was first proposed after the Kitty Genovese murder in 1964 – states that the larger a crowd is, the less likely the people in it are to help an individual in distress. Everyone ends up presuming someone else would help, and you end up with shocking news stories like that of Wang Yue, the two-year-old girl in China who was run over by two vehicles and received no help despite a whole bunch of people walking past her bloodied body.
Though it’s not quite the same, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in how people have been reacting to Bynes on Twitter. She is obviously in need of help – like serious, professional help – but most people merely observe her plight and then share about it on social media. Isn’t that all we do these days? When there’s an emergency, we keep calm and tweet about it.
Tweeting or Facebooking about bad things has become something of a national obsession. It has come to a point where it is almost cool to get robbed just so you could write a post about it. Of course, when you go through something traumatic, you want to share it with your friends, get some emotional release and warn others in the area – that’s fine.
But what some people are doing now is creating a climate of fear. I’m sure many of you will be sceptical about this, but official statistics have shown that crime in Malaysia has gone down by 26.8% – and yet the fear of it has gone up.
So we retreat further and further into our shells, telling our children not to help when they witness an emergency. We increasingly believe that by tweeting about it, by posting a Facebook photo of it, we’ve done all we can.
Perhaps it’s the right reaction. Err on the side of caution, right? After all, Malaysia doesn’t have any Good Samaritan laws to protect us.
But what we shouldn’t do is create a culture where everyone’s too afraid to take action when it’s necessary. Just as muscles atrophy from inactivity, so our empathy can turn into apathy.
It’s fine if we can’t empathise with the likes of Bynes, Lohan and Sheen. Seriously, how are we supposed to know what these champagne-showering multi-millionaire celebrities are going through?
But I think the least we can do is not join in with the mindless trolls. Sheen was obviously having a manic episode during his #winning, tiger blood-drinking phase. A few psychologists even went public with their opinions on it, but as usual, YouTubers kept churning out their parodies to boost their hit-counts, and gossip blogs kept hoping for bigger and badder scoops on him.
In that respect, Courtney Love has been a veritable saint, asking Bynes on Twitter a couple of weeks ago to “pull it together dude”.
Bynes retorted by calling Love “ugly”. Love, being as patient as ever, replied: “try to understand that we are just offering you pointers, we are all human, we can all use some good advice at times x”.
It’s kind of eerie, because Bynes just turned 27 a couple months ago. Perhaps that’s why Love has taken such an interest in Bynes – she lost her own husband Kurt Cobain to the infamous “27 Club” of famous musicians who all died at 27.
To be honest, the only Amanda Bynes movie I actually enjoyed was Easy A (where ironically, she played a judgemental, Bible-toting high school student), so she’s not exactly classic 27 Club material.
But it doesn’t matter. If she really does end up getting driven off the ledge by her demons, right in front of the millions watching on social media, it would be just as much a tragedy.
Chelsea in pole position
Now for some football. With Jose Mourinho back in Chelsea, I’m putting them as my early favourites for the Premier League title. With Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata having had one season to gel as an attacking unit, and David Luiz’s improvement at the back, expect Mourinho to hit the ground running.
And you can expect Roman Abramovich to spend big as well, to take advantage of any potential hiccups with David Moyes’ first season at Manchester United.
Manchester City might have a thing or two to say as well, but to ask Manuel Pellegrini to win the Premier League at his first try might be a bit unrealistic though that’s probably what his employers are expecting.
Ergo, Chelsea are favourites.