Arts & CultureCultural Affairs

Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Written by: Jon Ronson
Published by: Riverhead Books

The notion of public shaming evokes images of 19th century public humiliation in the form of the stocks and pillory, a process that has fortunately died off. However, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed explores a new form of shaming, through social media, that is perhaps even more damaging.

Jon Ronson, whose other works focus on psychopaths and extremists, turns his attention to how the ability of social media platforms to give voices to otherwise voiceless people has made villains out of everyday Twitter users.

Of course these people don’t see it that way. These everyday social justice activists feel proud and even excited when they can take down someone that has done something wrong. The massive network of Twitter provides people with approval from thousands of others who believe the same things as them, giving it the power to do great things, or to tear a person apart.

Ronson’s book follows the accounts of multiple people that have been victim to brutal shaming online for offences as small as a tactless joke. His description of these people following their shaming is at times tragic, showing the effects that online interactions don’t consider. However, Ronson’s writing is also littered with humour, and the book reads easily as one complete narrative although it is composed of many different smaller stories and research.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed analyzes both the reasoning behind the current “renaissance of public shaming” and the effects it has on those involved, making a convincing statement about the extreme negative impacts well-meaning individuals can have using 140 character comments.

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