But I know why people don't jump in and help.
I'll give you a scenario.
We're in high school. A kid, let's call her Karen, isn't very popular. She isn't the most hated kid in the school, but people occasionally bully her because she is clumsy and overweight. Her bullies are an annoyance, nothing more.
One day, she's walking down the hall and sees Vanessa, a short goth girl, being verbally abused by a group of top-of-the-totem-pole girls. These girls are the pretty ones with all the designer clothes and their choice of boys. Claire is their ringleader. Vanessa is the opposite of them, but she's extremely smart and it just doesn't show. She is at the very bottom of the social hierarchy in school. Everybody hates her because they think she's a weird Satan worshiper. The girls harassing her are telling her to go back to Hell with Satan. They're making fun of her dad, who was burned severely by a road bomb in Afghanistan. They're laughing at her because she lives in a trailer park. They call her white trash. On Facebook, they made a group all about insulting her, and they as well as random people from the internet send her hateful messages on a daily basis.
Karen is at a conundrum as she witnesses this taking place. If she jumps in on Vanessa's defense, she risks being mobbed by the same girls. She isn't very popular herself and acting in Vanessa's favor might knock her down to the bottom rung of the popularity ladder too. It's better to be invisible and pretend not to see or hear anything. Karen quietly walks by, unnoticed. At home, she gets on Facebook and notices Vanessa's wall is full of satanic pictures and insults. Again, making her presence known meant being bullied herself. Again, she does nothing. It's not her problem.
Now, let's reverse the scenario and start over.
Karen is at a conundrum as she witnesses this taking place. This time, she jumps in. She tells Claire's group to shut up. Claire's group snorts and walks away. Vanessa smiles at Karen in quiet thanks, and Karen walks her home. But the next day, Karen finds her locker vandalized with FREAK LOVING WHORE written in Sharpie. On her way to class, she gets accosted by the girls who were attacking Vanessa. Somebody slips printed images of gory dead soldiers into her Science textbook. It's the same things Vanessa deals with. She goes home, gets on Facebook and finds over twenty wall messages from Claire and her friends insulting everything about her. They ask her if she's a lesbian and tell her to go hang herself in her closet. It's much worse than the occasional ribbing she got from her peers, and it doesn't stop until she reports everything to a teacher she trusts. She shows him the Facebook group, the pictures she found in her textbook and a photo of her vandalized locker. Her school has a zero-tolerance policy. The girls responsible for the bullying are reported to the principal and kicked out of school, and the cruel Facebook group is taken down.
Both of these scenarios have many endings. Trying to list all of them would take up way too much space. So I'll give you two.
Scenario one: It's been a week since Karen saw Claire attacking Vanessa. Vanessa didn't come to school today. Last night, Karen checked Vanessa's Facebook wall, and the only new update said, "I'm done. Good night." As she's walking home, she hears sirens. An ambulance zooms into the trailer park where Vanessa lives. Karen thinks nothing of it. Then she goes to school the next day and finds out Vanessa killed herself. Karen goes home and gets on Facebook. Vanessa's wall is full of hate messages, trolls and spam. Karen sighs and closes her browser. It's sad, but it's not her problem.
Scenario two: It's been a month since high school ended. Karen is working as a cashier in a grocery store to make some extra money. Somebody comes up to the counter to buy milk. It's Vanessa. She thanks Karen for standing up for her. Karen was the first and only person to ever stand up for her. Vanessa tells Karen she was thinking of suicide until Karen defended her. She apologizes for the grief with Claire's group. Then she leaves with her milk carton, smiling, and Karen realizes the impact she had.
The bystander phenomenon can be even worse in a crowd. Kids who might stand up in private won't do so in public because they're afraid of the mob mentality. They don't want to be seen helping the bullied kid in front of half the school because "omg that's so uncool." It can be awful.
The worst thing, I think, is now the bullying might not end after high school. With the advent of the internet, bullies can keep on harassing long after face-to-face communication ceases. I was lucky to not have internet at home during high school--and Facebook wasn't even a twinkle in anybody's eye in 1998. I was lucky to not be in school at a time when somebody can capture bullying on camera phones and spread the humiliation over the internet. I think the internet is why bullying has gotten so bad today.
At the click of a button Miguel can post a video of poor Juan opening his locker on Monday morning and puking from the smell of a dead rat somebody stuck in there on Friday afternoon. Within minutes, thousands of people can see the video, laugh at it and Juan's Myspace page gets inundated with hate comments.
I even see the bystander phenomenon on the internet. I can understand why people choose to stay out of things. The term "white knighting" is often used when someone is defending somebody else against cyberbullies. White knights are often harassed as secondary targets. It's just like high school: who wants to risk being harassed, spammed or hacked? Yet, at the same time, there is always the hope that someone with the voice of reason will stand up and tell the cyberbullies to lay off. True, it may not work, but the person being attacked will see somebody tried to stand up on their behalf. I remember my own online friends trying to rally on my behalf when I was attacked by the Places That Shall Not Be Named. They tried, and a few of them got smacked around online for standing by me. The kindest thing I can do is pay it forward.
I have personally used sock puppet accounts to stand up for people getting harassed online. I won't say where, who or when. I've anonymously sent the Affirmations to people being cyberbullied. On youtube, I've told people leaving hateful comments on somebody's video that they're wrong and cruel to do that, and then I tell the video-maker that I care. I try to be a caring face in a sea of hate, but it is NOT easy. It is SCARY.
We live in a world where power is everything. People will do anything to get it, and many will misuse it. Popularity is power. Please don't misuse it. To quote Spiderman: "With great power comes great responsibility."