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Weekly Doses of Pop-up Psych

We all make cringey mistakes and deserve to move on, rather than feel confused or regretful after an icky social situation. Each week, I will dissect a murky social, life cycle, or pop culture topic to help you understand, learn, and move on. As a former academic, I am a super-picky consumer of research (and you should be too) as well as the content I create and share, so those new solutions, data and/or additional resources have certainly met my approval.

Decoding Dilemmas: Straddling the Fine Line Between Snitching and Helping


When two sixth grade boys planned a fight after school behind the town’s library, half the grade showed up to watch. Everyone seemed to know about the upcoming rumble, except the adults.  Although the kids gathered around they were disturbed to see the boy who initiated the fight get his teeth knocked out in one punch. Had an adult been alerted and intervened, the boy from the fight would have his four original teeth, instead of implants. Mercifully, it was something fixable, but it could have been more tragic.


See something, say something, is the latest campaign slogan placed in airports and other mass transit stations to encourage bystanders to report suspicious activity to a legal authority in hopes of catching a problem before it happens. However, snitches get stitches is the myth that if someone “tells” on someone else, they will get hurt. Snitching was found to be a hindrance to the criminal justice system, because of fear of retaliation


Three questions to clarify the gray area of snitching vs. helping


Anybody can say anything they want about anyone. We never know if it’s really true. Here is the rule for breaking confidentiality in therapeutic situations: an individual threatens to hurt him/her/themself or other people.  Nobody wants to see someone’s life or general well-being compromised, but there is the struggle between trying not to snitch and passing along information that could make or break someone’s safety.


What is your intention of sharing the information?


There needs to be mindful awareness as to why the information should or should not be shared. Snitching is when the intention is to gossip, blackmail, or get revenge. Helping aims toward an intervention to stop risky behaviors. For instance, if you have learned that your dear friend’s recreational alcohol consumption is becoming a daily habit, you might share the situation with someone trustworthy so you can try to get them help.


How will I feel when I share the information?


Although there is likely to be some discomfort and confusion, hopefully, it will be a relief to get it off your shoulders. It was brave if you had to divulge something awkward to potentially prevent a situation.  If you feel loud and proud with a twinge of guilt (because you know it was wrong), then the info was probably not shared for the right reasons. Reporting something anonymously is better than harboring a secret about a possible tragedy.


What evidence do I have to support my claim?


There is a difference between substantial data and general hearsay. Be prepared to show facts to support your assertion. For example, if you are at a highway rest stop and you see a young woman who looks like she might be trafficked, make sure you have substantive evidence (future blog topic) before alerting the authorities; as opposed to making false accusations.


How can you help people report suspicious activity anonymously?

Hi Beautiful Readers and thank you for reading this! I'm Dr. Joanne Broder, Media Psychologist, Author, and Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Please consider me to help you write your memoir, blogs, speeches, e-books, as well as coach you on your dissertation or thesis.  Click here so we can connect!

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