At a time where numerous online communities have continuous ‘drama’, Jon Ronson asks in his latest book – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – why social media sites such as Twitter are used to call out and shame individuals for their actions. By looking at those who doing the shaming and the shamed, Ronson takes a detailed look into a feeling which has deeply manifested itself online.
For most of the book, Ronson documents the effect public shaming has on the ‘victims’ – from the devastating impact it has on Jonah Lehrer (who misquoted Bob Dylan in a book he wrote) to the minimal impact it had on Max Mosley after the News of the World published a defamatory article about him in 2008. In terms of those who publicly shamed these individuals and others, whilst Jon does report on their own reasons why they did it, I couldn’t help but feel like he didn’t tap into the wider, collective and psychological reason as to why people choose to shame others. Instead, it was more of a case-by-case basis, looking into Sam Biddle’s explanation for playing a part in Justine Sacco‘s shaming, and Michael Moynihan’s reasons for shaming Jonah Lehrer.
That being said, the majority of the book focussed on the many ways someone can cope with public shaming, and these parts were the most enjoyable and interesting. It was the sections about reputation.com and Brad Blanton’s ‘Radical Honesty’ which gave an intriguing insight into those running a business around the shame industry. Then there were chapters about Philip Zambardo’s prison study and Gustave Le Bon’s research which offered a psychological insight into the topic – something which I hoped would be explored further in the book.
This was the first Jon Ronson book I had read, and I love how thought-provoking the book was as a whole. Something I came to respect was how he gave such an in-depth investigation into a topic, whilst leaving some questions unanswered. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is an enjoyable novel, at a time where public shaming is definitely a trending topic.
What do you think about online drama and public shaming? Are you scared of sites such as Twitter in case of being called out or ‘shamed’? Comment below!