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So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson

So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson Rating: ★★★★☆(4/5)




Jon Ronson explores public shaming in the mordern day through social media.

"Jon Ronson travelled the world meeting the subjects of high-profile public shaming. They're most likely us - people, who say, made a bad joke on social media. But when their transgression is revealed, collective outrages circles around them...they're torn apart, demonized, sometimes even fired from their jobs. Do they deserve it? Are our actions justified? Or are we using shame as a form of social media?"


My partner told me about this book and naturally I had to read it, these days the majority of my generation perhaps even society use social media and whilst I think there's many upsides to this; staying in touch with cross-country relatives, being able to speak to friends through a pandemic and of course it allows the opportunity to showcase businesses, blogs and talents people might not have been able to before social media made it so easy to reach and audience. There's a quote I love that goes:

"Everyone on Instagram is a photographer, or a chef, or an artist, or a fashion blogger or a dancer. Which is pretty awesome actually, people didn't get this chance to showcase their talent earlier. Do your thing, be creative, let the whole word see it"


However I also think there's darker sides to social media; the way it affects our self esteem, body image and we constantly want to be as good as someone else's best bits they post on Instagram. Even more than that though is the ability it has to destroy peoples lives, Ronson explores one aspect of this, he explore what happens when both famous and non-famous individuals become the focus of social media due to an ill-tasted joke, derogatory or comment being exposed as a liar/fraud.


There are several individuals in his account but the two stories I remembered reading about were that of Justine Sacco and Lindsey Stone; Justine Sacco used to share witty jokes with her twitter followers and one day tweeted "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDs. Just Kidding, I'm White" which overnight led to her becoming labelled as racist, receiving death threats and rape threats and sacked from her job, Sacco herself explains in the book that it was a stupid and naive tweet to make but that what she was actually attempting to do was make fun of her own privileged American bubble and also didn't even contemplate her tweet would reach thousands of people who do not follow her. Lindsey Stone was a young lady who had an in joke with her friend where she would post her doing stupid faces and gestures in front of signs, she stuck her finger up in front a silence and respect sign not realising it was a military site and then some of her Facebook friends leaked it all over and she became the target of online shamer's.


"A life had been ruined. What was it for: just some social media drama? I think our natural disposition as humans is to plod along until we get old and stop. But with social media we've created a stage for constant artificial high drams. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain"






I found So You've Been Publicly Shamed informative, sometimes painfully funny and incredibly thought provoking. It tells the stories of several different people who have experienced public shaming, how it differs to the olden day styles of shaming's, if media shaming's are actually more damaging, the way it is executed differently towards men and women and if an individual can rebuild themselves after being at the centre of one. The reason I found it so thought provoking as Ronson explores why we feel so compelled to publicly shame people, to join in and why individual's often feel it is okay to shame others with death threats in the face of racist jokes (Disclaimer: it is definitely not okay). It made me think about all of the times I've shared something outrageous somebody has said, why I feel the whole world needs to know and if I've ever tried to look for an alternative explanation than the individual said that because they are wrong and deserved to be shamed.


I've given it four stars as its a subject I've not read a lot about, I did find it to be engaging and I felt like Ronson explored several different theories and ideas; I found it really fascinating when he explored the shame eradication groups, however the reason I didn't give it five stars was I felt that he often goes on tangents about things unrelated to public shaming, there's a lot of quoted literature in there that doesn't seem relevant and I also found the order to be a bit weird, constantly jumping between different case studies.


If you're somebody who always like to examine two sides of an argument with a particular interest in social media and the element both it and we play in publicly shaming others then this is definitely worth a read.

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