So many campaigns nowadays focus on raising awareness. An awareness campaign can focus on anything from disease, legal/political injustice, environmental problems, and so on. As much as people who work to raise awareness like to think they’re helping, it doesn’t really do anything. It’s the equivalent of offering to pray for someone who’s in a bad spot. You get to feel like you’re helping without actually putting forth any constructive effort.
Why does awareness raising not have any real effect? At the heart of the awareness raising strategy is the idea that if we make enough people aware of a problem then hopefully some of them will actually get up and do something. The problem with this way of thinking is that this is seldom the case. All too often people fall victim to the bystander effect.
The bystander effect or Genovese syndrome is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases where individuals do not offer any means of help in an emergency situation to the victim when other people are present. The probability of help has in the past been thought to be inversely related to the number of bystanders; in other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. The mere presence of other bystanders greatly decreases intervention. This happens because as the number of bystanders increases, any given bystander is less likely to interpret the incident as a problem, and less likely to assume responsibility for taking action.
So in essence, say you have a huge concert to raise awareness about an issue. Are you actually going to do anything to solve the problem? No, nor is anyone else who goes to that concert. They’ll all be thinking the same thing you are “I paid my money, and I’m sure someone in this crowd will do something.” Very few, if any, will. You’re money is also going to pay for the cost of having the concert. If you really want your money to do some good, pick a charity with a low overhead.
A fund raising concert is one thing, but unfortunately “raising awareness” is nothing but a giant circle-jerk of people who are hoping others will actual get started on working to solve a problem.