Helping you balance your online life

May 26th


Shame on You: This Humiliating Trend Has People on Edge

Gosh, look at what she's wearing today!

Remember the good ol' days when people could post their thoughts, opinions and updates about their day on social media and not worry about a swarm of backlash? Nowadays it seems name-calling, bashing, public judgement and humiliation are starting to rule the social media world.

People are quick to pull out their smartphones and record conversations and interactions, or record other people's normal everyday activities, just in case they capture a moment that will give them 15 minutes of fame.

Over the past year or two in particular, I've noticed the general public seems quick to judge, more harshly and more frequently than ever before.

This phenomenon is known as social shaming––a form of internet vigilantism in which targets are publicly humiliated using technology like social and new media, and then the story is sometimes picked up by traditional media. The circumstances and targets vary.

For example, do you remember the Playboy model who took a picture of a nude woman in the locker room and posted it on Snapchat with the caption: "If I can't unsee this then you can't either"? She faced major backlash online and her "fat shaming" got her fired from her radio job, banned for life from her gym and she faced legal charges related to invasion of privacy.

Or how about the American dentist Walter Palmer who was vilified online after he reportedly killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe? All over Twitter and other sites people called for the dentist to be shot and skinned.

Or US women's soccer star Hope Solo getting trolled online and booed by crowds at the Rio Olympics after she posted photos of her large quantity of bug repellent on Twitter and commented about her concerns traveling to the Zika-ravaged country.

Or the internet accusing singer Kelly Clarkson of child abuse after she fed her daughter Nutella and posted a picture of it on Instagram.

Even non-famous people have fallen victim, such as a woman in Virginia who had a discriminatory run-in with a fellow shopper at a local grocery store. Her anti-Muslim rant was secretly recorded and posted all over social media and reported on by the local news media.

Don't get me wrong, these may be ignorant acts worthy of some kind of punishment. Sometimes, public apologies and remorse should be enough. But this public shaming is relentless.

Jon Ronson, author of "So You've Been Publicly Shamed." said in an CNN interview: "It's so corrosive to create that kind of society. This desire we have to be like amateur detectives, (looking for) clues into people's inherent evil by finding the worst tweet they ever wrote, is not only wrong; it's damaging."

I often wonder how this is impacting the social media universe. Are people thinking twice about what they post and share with the world? Are they worried about their First Amendment rights to speak freely? Have the good, sensible people of the world forgotten all about the notion of "forgive and forget"?

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