Shaming on Social Networks: Why It Happens and What The Consequences Are

The use of public shaming is not a new one, but with the increased use of social media public shaming has been on the rise. A positive thing about social media is that it gives people a voice and a way to be heard and voice their opinions. Unfortunately when it comes to online shaming we don’t always get both sides of the story.

The use of social media to publicly shame someone for their bad behavior will often times turn into a Supporters of online shaming view its use as a way to encourage good behavior. Critics of online shaming see it as a way to encourage hate and online mobs that can potentially destroy someone’s reputation or career. People have many different reasons to shame someone publicly and often times these can be seemingly innocent mistakes. The use of shaming on social media can have many negative and long lasting effects. Approximately 41% of teens reported that social media shaming made them feel depressed and hopeless, 26% of individuals stated that it made them feel alone, 18% of people experienced suicidal thoughts, and 21% of school aged children dropped out of school due to being shamed and bullied on social media. In a review of Jon Ronson’s book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”, Rita Koganson writes, “The extent to which we are willing to inflict pain on others is tempered by our own shame at being, and being thought, cruel.

This means that even when a guest or a colleague makes an off-color remark at a party or at a meeting, few people will respond by gathering everybody to berate the speaker publicly in an Orwellian “Two Minutes Hate” and then throwing him out of the building, which would be roughly the physical equivalent of an Internet pile-on…the only decent way to respond without making oneself more loathsome than the original offender is to take him aside privately and offer a gentle suggestion.

Social media diminishes both the discomfort of seeing our victim’s suffering and the shame of being seen making him suffer, both of which require personal proximity to experience.” (Mohammed) There are times when making an individual feel guilty can be a motivator of better behavior, however, being shamed on social media mainly promotes self-loathing. Shaming someone publicly on social media only causes them to dig deeper into their beliefs. To get someone to change the way they think or feel about a situation or topic takes examining our internal thoughts and feeling and then to reflect about their beliefs. Author Jon Ronson wrote the book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” where he explores online shaming and the psychological effects of it. For three years, Ronson traveled the world interviewing people who have had experiences with online shaming.

Many people can remember the humiliation endured by Justine Sacco and Lindsey Stone when they were publicly shamed, damaging both women’s reputations and costing them their jobs. People who had never met them were able to vilify them with just a click of their keypad. Ronson also examines the use of public shaming in the prison system. Often times individuals who are incarcerated lack availability to mental health resources and the effects of public shaming will often times cause them to self-mutilate and injure themselves. In his book, Ronson states that “We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside it.” (Ronson) Public shaming has become out of control with the increased use of the internet and social media. I feel like often times people resort to public shaming out of frustration and anger. They feel the need to call out others on what they view is bad behavior as a way to validate their opinions.

We are living in a time where people are driven to seek attention and crave approval and validation even at the cost of humiliating others. There are so many times when people are publicly shamed for minor error of judgement. With the use of social media, shaming others has become all too easy and can be entertaining and funny to jump on the band wagon when people are able to remain anonymous.