So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson was moving. Taking the very real examples of individuals in the past decade who’ve been shamed using social media and exploring the rise of shame culture due to social media and the internet and the effects on our psyche and society, Mr. Ronson brings what can be a distant experience and makes it personal. I had to flinch a few times considering some of the comments I made about people on Twitter or Facebook. Granted, I’ve never joined in wanting to kill or rape anyone, but a stone is a stone and throwing it at someone who can’t fight back still makes me guilty.
What was serendipitous is that our book club read this book while the Monica Lewinsky TED Talk came out. We watched it at our recent book club meeting and found that Mr. Ronson and Ms. Lewinsky harmonized in their analysis and suggestions for this shame culture. The President Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal that rocked the late 90’s was probably the first time that anyone had been shamed so publicly and yet anonymously. People were being forwarded crude jokes about the two of them and sending them on to their friend groups. Cartoons and gossip stories swirled on the internet while gossip became truth. And this was new. Sure we had talked about people before. But it was in our homes and in our offices. But with the internet we can now gossip and say whatever we want to a much wider audience.
And in some ways we have changed our behavior because of it. I have a Twitter but I have to be careful what I post because as a teacher I’m worried that even with privacy settings students, parents, superintendents who want to get rid of me could find something and construe it how they want. I’m sure some of you can relate. We’ve all heard that now-a-days, when you’re looking for a job, you have to clean up or lock up your Facebook because employers want to see what you are like when no one is filtering you.
I highly recommend this book for either a personal read or in a group setting. Trust me, you’re going to want to talk about this book either way.