The Bystander Effect: What Happens When Naked Pictures Are Being Shared?

Blean Tsige

This essay deals with theories of the bystander effect. This is done by analysing an example of a reality TV show fight between the participants. The conclusion entails that a person's behaviour is not controllable.


Naked Truth 

A compelling dilemma happened in the well-known Australian TV show “Marriage, At First Sight”  (Video 1). Naked pictures were shared of one of the girls, named Dominica. She did admit to having an OnlyFans account, so the revealing pictures were already online, but members have to pay to receive exclusive naked pictures of her. So she felt hurt and betrayed, because one of her enemies, called Olivia, found the pictures online and sent them to their fellow co-stars.




They all talked about her naked pictures, without Dominica being there. Her co-stars also talked about Dominica’s involvement with the controversial OnlyFans site and intentionally continued to share the naked picture amongst themselves. Dominica eventually found out a day later at the dinner party and felt hurt and betrayed by all the participants.

Her story bears two main questions: Why did her co-stars stand by this injustice when Olivia was sharing Dominica’s naked pictures? Why did they continue to share and talk about the naked picture instead of coming forward or warning Dominica?


The Effect On A Group

The Bystander effect is a typical phenomenon that happens when an intentionally harmful incident occurs and people do nothing to help the victim (Aronson & Aronson, 2018). The responsibility of the individuals involved usually diminishes when people are aware that others are witnessing the event. Simply put, the noninvolvement of the bystander is an observed attitude, in which people assume that since others are watching someone else is helping (Aronson & Aronson, 2018).

Specifically what prevents the bystander from helping is that they accept the diffusion of responsibility, and evaluate the apprehension (fearing that they will publicly be judged) and their pluralistic ignorance (relying on others) (Latane & Darley, 1970). Also in this case it is evident that Dominica's co-stars were under this effect. They stood by and let Olivia share the picture.


Figure 1. Depicts an example and not real events.


Each participant knew of the involvement of the other co-star and assumed that they would do something against the picture being shared. So when will people help? It is assumed that usually, people will help in principle if there is a ‘common fate’ (Aronson & Aronson, 2018). That means that if people share somewhat a closed environment it is common that they tend to help each other out. Another strong factor is that if there is no escape from the face-to-face aspect of the situation, people will feel the need to help (Aronson & Aronson, 2018).

This principle does not work fully since no one can control the behaviour of different people. This is true since Dominica experienced the same problem. No one helped her, even though they were in the same experiment/TV show and all participants lived in the same apartment building. Most importantly the participants did not want to define the situation as an emergency and they did not want to assume personal responsibility for intervening, which gave them enough reasons to not help out (Aronson & Aronson, 2018). 



At the end of the episode one of her co-stars, Seline, changed her mind and came up to Dominica to apologize. She gave her flowers and chocolate while giving her sincere apologies. In conclusion, it seems that people do change but no one is in control of when a person's behaviour will switch. 



Aronson, E., & Aronson, J. (2018, February 19). The Social Animal Twelfth Edition (Twelfth). Worth Publishers.

Darley, J., & Latane, B. (1970). Diffusion of responsibility. Bystander Intervention In Emergencies. Vol. 8, No. 4, 377-383. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.