So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is complicated and messy and will force you to examine how you do or do not participate in #canceled culture. Ronson explores how individuals have been publicly shamed after making a misstep (largely on social media), their reactions, and their responses. Ronson argues that today’s social media shamings are essentially the modern day throwing of tomatoes at people in stocks, except the shame extends far beyond the public shaming instance as search results seem endlessly tied to those who are shamed.
Ronson details many different, nuanced examples and reactions to public shaming. Throughout the book, Ronson repeatedly returns to one specific case of public shaming and many of his arguments hinge on this one case and the reader sympathizing with a joke gone wrong. However, I don’t believe the case featured a “joke gone wrong” because it was a tweet of a racist joke that targeted a specific, marginalized group of people. Unfortunately, Ronson’s hinging on this specific case caused me to the dock the book a star because I could not view the example in a sympathetic light. Yes, no one should have one mistake/misstep attached to their name and their search results forevermore, hindering their ability to considered for job opportunities. But should someone who works in Public Relations and makes a racist joke on a public, personal social media page be fired from their current job in PR? Probably.
Ronson ends So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by pointing out that people will increasingly limit themselves in online spaces into bland existences for fear of receiving public backlash themselves. I’ve seen this evidenced by my own increasingly infrequent social media posts, but not out of fear of backlash, but moreso out of awareness that I don’t want *everything* and *every thought* to be shared online.
This was an incredibly quick, interesting, and timely read. If you’re already interested in the subject matter, I recommend you pick it up!
Publication Date: 31 March 2015 by Riverhead Books. Format: Paperback.