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Beware Public Shaming

I've just finished Jon Ronson's 'So You've Been Publicly Shamed'. Despite its troublesome subject it is a sweet-tempered read. You feel Ronson is the kind of person you could trust—even if he is a journalist.

But that's not my reason for writing this short post. He reports in detail on the consequences of some very public shamings — Justine Sacco, Lindsey Stone especially — for missteps that any of us, in a momentary lapse of judgment, could easily have taken.

It is deeply cautionary about the weight of this so-called social web 'justice' that was parcelled out to them (even when, as he admits, it is "fun" to do it). 

So here are a few of his admonitory comments:

A shaming can be like a distorting mirror at a funfair, taking human nature and making it look monstrous.

But I'd (Ronson) piled on plenty of people like Justine. I'd been beguiled by the new technology—a toddler crawling toward a gun. Just like Dave Eshelman, it was the desire to do something good that propelled me. Which was definitely a better thing to be propelled by than group madness. But my desire had taken a lot of scalps—I'd torn apart a lot of people I couldn't now remember—which made me suspect that it was coming from some very weird dark well, some place I really didn't want to think about.

It felt like we were soldiers making war on other people's flaws, and there had suddenly been an escalation in hostilities.

The lesson: We need to take a lot more care before jumping to judgment of others on the social web.

No, That's Not an Apology

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