Title: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
Author: Jon Ronson
Publisher/Date Published: Picador, 2015
How I Got This Book: Purchased from Waterstones.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The internet is a strange beast. It has the power to make people, and it has the power to break people. Jon Ronson’s newest book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, deals with the latter, rather than the former. He discusses in great detail what happens to people who have made a stupid comment on the internet, and how it has subsequently affected their lives.
He begins with a discussion about the Jan Moir Stephen Gately furore, and how she ended up being publicly shamed on Twitter for her views, and then moves on to looking at other cases, mainly focusing on those who ‘accidentally’ end up making themselves (in)famous on Twitter, like the aforementioned Justine Sacco, or Lindsey Stone. He also explores and discusses the concept of shame, and why it’s such a big deal, including a really interesting interview with Max Mosley and his refusal to feel ashamed after the revelations about his personal life, as well as discussing the different ways in which we can deal with shame, or stop it.
Honestly, I find the whole concept of Twitter shaming and trial-by-media/internet incredibly fascinating. I can’t help but think about the way that ‘Piggate‘ blew up overnight on Twitter, and how fascinating I found it, alongside many other public issues and shamings that have gone on. Ronson details his journey from joining in with those on Twitter, shaming people who, in his (and other people’s) view, deserve to be shamed, to maybe staying away from it. He also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the internet, and how it should/shouldn’t be used within interactions with people you do/do not like in the world. This has then led me thinking more and more about my interactions with the world in general on Twitter, and how, perhaps, joining in on these shaming trends isn’t necessarily a good thing.
It’s written as well as any of Jon Ronson’s other books – he goes to great lengths to ensure that he interviews anyone that he wants to use within the books, getting their permission and discussing all sorts of outcomes with them – he manages to get interviews with people who have never been interviewed before, like Jonah Lehrer and Lindsey Stone, showing their points of view and making sure that the reader knows that in fact these are real people, and perhaps they haven’t deserved their lives being ruined. Some people are much more repentant that others, and Ronson’s own views on these people obviously influence his writing – which is fine, as long as you aren’t expecting an unbiased piece.
It throws up lots of interesting questions, and the fact that it all stems from the fact that Jon Ronson was imitated on Twitter by a spambot, makes it a great read if you’re a fan of Twitter, the internet, public shaming or Jon Ronson. You end up learning a lot about the group mentality that surrounds public shaming, and it is one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in a while. I definitely recommend it!