Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology
Social media plays a pivotal role in providing a platform for the voiceless. This is evident with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other social justice issues that have long been disregarded. However, it also comes with a dark side that we all know about and may have even aided and abetted in one way or the other.
Cancel culture, taking away one’s power or culture capital has gained prominence over the last couple of years and affected people’s lives and careers. Unlike Aziz Ansari, Taylor Swift and even the late Michael Jackson whose reputations were barely scathed, Kevin Spacey has not been able to redeem his career (with good reason). It is against this backdrop that I decided to pick up Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.
In the book, Jonson analyses prominent cases of public shaming including Jonah Lehrer who (self)-plagiarised his works, Justine Sacco’s wrongly phrased joke landed her in Twitter hot water and Max Mosley who was able to redeem himself from a high profile sex scandal. He examines the victims and the victimisers of public shaming, the reasons behind the actions and ways that people can overcome public shame.
Ronson is adept at addressing a serious topic with curiosity and wit without flinching at the realities. Part of the reason why this book is engrossing and easy to read is that the stories are relatable. The book shows that online citizen justice may not provide the whole depth and breadth of a situation. As much as we would like there to be clear-cut heroes and villains, that is not always the case. As online citizens, we tend to forget that there are REAL people behind these online handles and profiles and 140 characters is not enough to express oneself aptly. Rightly so Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism argues the benefits of having a blog over a social media handle.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed will challenge readers to look beyond sensationalized online posts, to do the work before playing judge and jury to online content creators. While in some countries, you can exercise your right to be forgotten, it is better to be safe than sorry.
On a cautionary note, the author does use strong language which may deter some people from picking it up. Overall, this book was an interesting dive into a subject that we know about but do not readily address.
Book Cover: Goodreads