Monday, June 15, 2015

Just starting...

All right, I have finally finished the two books on shame that I was reading. Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed and Jennifer Jacquet's Is Shame Necessary? The two books approached the subject of public shaming from different angles. Ronson's book was about individual people who had been shamed and Jacquet's book was more about using shame as a tool toward corporations to influence their decision making.

I wanted to read them because I was starting to feel more and more uncomfortable with the way the online world seems to handle shaming. Someone makes a lame joke over Twitter and people get out their virtual pitchforks and it turns to blood sport. You see pictures posted on your Facebook feed, "Share this image of this person doing this bad thing that I have zero back story or corroborating evidence for but share it and potentially wreck this person's life anyway." Differences in opinions are treated as unbreachable problems instead of points to start a discussion from. And not just unbreachable as in fine, we disagree and will always disagree, but SOMEONE is wrong and must be bashed into submission.

At least verbally. But not entirely I mean let's throw in a rape threat if you are a woman and a death threat works for everyone no matter the gender.

It's all a bit much don't you think?

And yet, there is a place in the world for shame. A little healthy shame keeps us in line socially, we should be concerned with how our actions affect other people. Reminding companies that they need to be good stewards in their quest for profits is a good use for shame as well.

But it's so easy for it to get out of hand and cross the line. I don't think one bad joke, no matter how distasteful you find it, is reason for someone to lose their job. Wouldn't it be better to say, "hey, the reason that's not funny is because...." and point out that the person/group/thing they are making fun of isn't really all that funny. Instead we declare them the worst, just absolutely the worst and they are shamed. And doxxed. And threatened. Because they misspoke. Or even if they didn't misspeak, and they did intend to say something off color, did the virtual pitchforks make a difference?

Did it change their belief system? Did it bring them to another stage of understanding? Or did it just scare them in to silence? And give people ammunition to use in the argument against the growing legions of people speaking out against the thought police? Which, yes, the thought police are always out there, bullying people in to silence, but they aren't a reason why you shouldn't be able to tell someone when they are being an asshole and should have a little shame.

See how complicated it ends up?

I'm still thinking about it all and will write more later on the subject, but here is the start, the just finished the second book what do I think now that I've seen a few other opinions on the subject, good and bad?

Where is the line? Where is the good vs. bad point? Where is the speak out or shut up measure? When is mass shaming appropriate? When does it lead to positive changes? When does it just hamper discussion? I have a feeling I will never reach a solid yes or no stance but as most things in my life it will be fluid and totally depend on circumstances.

But it's good to think about. To question. To understand why you do and do not do certain things.


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