Thursday, November 3, 2016

86:120 So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Public shaming is not a new phenomenon but was actually used frequently and effectively in for centuries leading up to the 1900s when it started declining because it was deemed cruel.  Now, in our online forums it has made a staggering comeback but instead of it being something that is used as a punishment being meted out by the village where your transgression took place by people who generally knew you and understood the circumstances, it is now being carried out almost instantaneously by people who had never heard of you until they saw the dog pile going on and decide to jump into the fray.  This book goes into several different ways that public shaming has taken place recently, the after effects of each case, and looks more deeply into the mindset behind it and when public shaming can be appropriate and when it just goes overboard.

So this book was assigned to my 18yr old for his English 100 class.  When I saw it come in, I was already intrigued and said as much to him.  We decided we would try to read it together when it was assigned so we could discuss it.  His entire class has lead to many interesting discussions as his teacher seeks to bring awareness to many different social issues which I'm definitely a proponent of.  This book was no different.  I have signed many petitions and been outspoken in my views of many things but I have tried to stay away from the social shaming although I admit to sometimes being happy to see some of it being done (pretty much any shaming someone like Brock Turner or someone like him gets I'm not going to be shedding a tear over) but I've seen many other instances like the case of Justine Sacco where I believe that what was done and the consequences to her life far outweighed the judgment lapse and the lack of any meaningful discussion behind said lapse.  Pointing out that people have done something wrong is one thing.  Condemning them without ever really listening to their side of the story and playing judge, jury, and executioner as a mob is not something I am in favor of towards an individual.  Can this mentality be used to shame companies into better behavior?  Yes and I actually believe that to be a fairly ethical use of this power so long as it sticks to the facts of the complaint against them and does not get personal with the employees outside of the "this is what was said".  I admit to having to do things like post on a company's FB page in order to get my complaints resolved before but I never attacked, called for rape of anyone, or threatened any violence of any kind.  This kind of behavior is, in my opinion (and seems to be in the opinion of the author), completely uncalled for at any time.  I see the rise in public shaming of individuals who do something dumb or have an opinion different from someone else's as a symptom of the general lack of compassion and civility that is going around.  We are so much more connected to the world these days but this online presence makes it easy to forget that there is a real person on the other side of the screen who has hopes and dreams and feelings just like you do while you can be an anonymous voice from cyberspace.  I think this book was a good reminder of how we need to start looking in the mirror and more carefully consider our actions using compassion and civility before we start typing.

Page count: 318p/23,184p ytd/272,334p lifetime

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