So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed- Jon Ronson

31 May


As I think I’ve written a few times I generally don’t read non-fiction.  It just doesn’t appeal to me.  However, I had heard good things about Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,’ and having previously really enjoyed his book, ‘The Psychopath Test,’ I gave it a go.  I thought it was brilliant.  Thought-provoking and inspiring in equal measure.

Towards the end of the book the author examines the impact of shaming as part of criminal prosecution and incarceration.  I found this really interesting as I am a firm believer that prison, for the majority of people, is part of the problem rather than the solution.  Locking people up and denying them self-esteem and an opportunity to improve themselves denies them, and us, the opportunity to see any tangible reform.  I just cannot understand why as a society we continue to expect different results with the same experiment.  Untill we do, I doubt reoffending levels will drop dramatically nor will we see a role in the community for those placed in jail.

There are a series of investigations, analysis and interpretations around public shaming throughout the book but it was the looks at twitter that most got to me personally.  I know from speaking to some friends that their reaction to the book has been to make them second guess the sort of things they put up on twitter.  It has created a paranoia around the fact their tweets could be misinterpreted, deliberately or otherwise.  For me it was a different reaction.  I don’t believe I’ve posted things up that could be seen as overtly offensive, although I have no doubt someone could construe anything to suggest otherwise.  However, I did identify with the threads in the book that highlighted the growing sense of community outrage.  Individuals who have jumped on the bandwagon of public shaming, sometimes for all the right reasons, without a greater consideration for the individuals at the centre of the storm.  I may have been perfectly within my rights to have been shocked at the nature, tone or thrust of someones comments but have I always stopped to consider their context?  Have I always thought about the regret those individuals may have had or what the longer term impact has been on their social/professional lives?  I am not sure I can say I have.  It was a timely read in particular coming after the election.  I stayed, I believe, politically neutral.  I’m glad to say I don’t partake in party politics in any way shape or form.  Still, many of those I follow do, and on a cross-party basis.  The commentary from some was so one-eyed and deliberately misleading that it soured the whole debate.  I think some would certainly benefit from reading Ronson’s warnings about the changing nature of our online communities.

The book has made me review the way I use twitter.  How I post and interact with it.  It doesn’t change my own moral compass but it does make me ask the question of what the purpose is of my commentary and more so what the impact is.  If anything I am left with the sense that it is I who has been publicly shamed for partaking in social-media shaming in the past, irrespective of the worthiness at the core of the issue in some cases.


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