Social Media Shaming: Go or No?

Recently, I’ve noticed an increase in the circulation of social media posts that publicly narrate some sort of offense or wrongdoing by a private person, whose name and photo are typically included (even tagged) in the post. Usually, the one posting is the person who was offended, and in all fairness, it’s often the case that the offense was truly heinous or admittedly unethical. For example, the posts featured the following:

  1. A person who physically assaulted (e.g. slapped, hit, kicked) another person in public
  2. A student holding up a sign showing curse words for a public official
  3. A person who spread demeaning, accusatory rumors about an innocent individual
  4. A person indignantly (even arrogantly) refusing to pay their sizable financial debts, long past due
  5. A person who constantly lied to and cheated on their romantic partner
  6. A person who left insulting and discriminatory comments about a group of people on another post

The posts typically go on to have thousands of reactions, shares, and comments, mostly sympathetic to the one offended while shaming or attacking the offender. Now, some of the above may obviously be tantamount to an actual criminal or at least civil offense, punishable by law and all that. Others are interpersonal conflicts by nature. My question is this: Is our public posting and viral sharing of the names and photos of the offenders in all of the above cases justified? Maybe it doesn’t differ much from the practice of having the names and faces of suspected/convicted criminals featured on the news, yes?

As a society, we do have a collective responsibility to see to it that our members abide by the law and our norms for what is acceptable conduct. And with the advent of social media, new ways of enforcing these laws and norms are emerging. It’s so easy now more than ever to shape the behavior we want from other people, and to deter unwanted behavior, simply with the click of a button. And for all we know, maybe social media shaming is effective in shaping this society’s members to be kinder, more polite individuals who think twice about doing wrong against their fellowmen.

The threat of shaming via social media is very real, and has the potential to kill one’s reputation and ruin one’s future prospects in an instant. It’s like public stoning gone digital. The offending person doesn’t get killed, but his/her reputation sure does. And we might say it’s only just that they meet such fate; if they didn’t want to be shamed, then maybe they shouldn’t have done the wrong things they did. We have a wealth of expressions that reflect how accepting we are of such reasoning as a society: “They’ve made their bed, now they must sleep in it.” “Karma is a bitch.” “Give them a taste of their own medicine.”

On the other hand, I can’t help but ask about the other side of the coin. There’s this quote from an actor in Hamilton: An American Musical that goes:

“All of us are more than one thing…If that’s all you’re looking atour worst act on our worst day, any one of us could be painted as a villain. It’s really about the totality of someone.” ~ Leslie Odom

This has forced me to think whether in shaming someone in social mediaeven though we feel the offense they committed might’ve deserved itwe are forever declaring the person as the villain, with no other redeemable aspect, no hope for the future. I feel conflicted in asking this, for I might just be getting to consider this because I wasn’t the one offended in the way the people who posted were. I didn’t go through the kind of pain they did. So really, who am I to say what should and shouldn’t be done in such cases?

Maybe, as in most dilemmas, the right way to go has to be decided by each individual, depending on their own values and moral standards. This is why I must leave you to decide for yourself, thensocial media shaming: go, or no?

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98 thoughts on “Social Media Shaming: Go or No?

  1. I found the comparison to public stoning interesting. I don’t think it’s a good thing, and it can definitely get too far. We all see the hate comments on celebrities, even when they’ve done nothing wrong. Imagine what an offender would get, probably death threats and such.

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  2. Good question. I’d rather err on the side of caution, i.e., social media shaming should not be the norm especially if the offense involved is of a private nature. People’s life and reputation are at stake. Many of those who commit offensive acts are sometimes just being plain stupid and are not truly mean nasty folks. Being shamed in social media might make it harder for people to turn a new oage, so to speak. However, I admit that there are instances when the general public needs to be warned about a person’s activities to protect the former.

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  3. People also attracted negativity and maybe consciously or unconsciously enjoying watching someone brought down, watching others humiliated an aphrodisiac of sorts, especially you haven’t been successful in your own life. Almost everything the media negative, because sells. It will stop when people stop paying attention, and that isn’t going happen. Even with myself, my fb page that deals with crime, the criminal justice system, and prison issues, most the posts about something negative, but then there isn’t much of anything positive to about .

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    • I agree with you–in the media, negative stuff sells. I’ve also heard someone point out that people enjoy watching crime dramas because in a sense, they crave the validation that their lives are not as bad as those of the victims they watch. It sounds pretty twisted when stated like that, but I believe there may be some truth to that. As you mentioned, some people may derive conscious/unconscious enjoyment from it.

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  4. This post is reminding me of this Jon Ronson book I read called So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. I found that book really interesting and I think call out culture online has gone too far, like when people release someone’s contact info, also known as doxxing. The person who did wrong isn’t the only one affected, but so are their families, pets, roommates, whoever else is around them.

    It also reminds me of that Black Mirror episode where everything is based on your social standing and if you don’t have high enough of a ranking you can’t do certain things or go certain places.

    Very well written!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not familiar with that book, but I might like to read it! “Call out culture” is an apt phrase for this phenomenon, I think. And I didn’t know there was a term for the practice of releasing someone’s contact info for the purpose of shaming or calling them out. Thank you so much for leaving such an informative reply!

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    • Good point. Maybe revenge is anticipated by many to feel like a freeing act, but at the end of it, they discover it erected more of a prison for themselves. Thanks for reading, and for sharing that insight!

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  5. I think I come more on the line of “not acceptable”. It’s not possible to get through life without sometimes coming into conflict, hurting or offending people. We aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t pretend to be.

    I’d very much like to read Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ for more insight into social shaming as a societal tool and weapon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it’s very complex, and maybe context has a lot to do with whether something is acceptable or not. But if I have to choose, I agree with you, I would also say no to public shaming. It doesn’t mean we should let offenses go by unnoticed, of course, but if there are other, more appropriate ways of dealing with them, then I think we should utilize those ways instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great subject to bring up! I always have these debates with my wife, and i too don’t name and shame. I seen a post about a thief the other day getting mauled by the public. The lad is a heroin addict, this is obviously one of the reasons he is stealing, this could of being brought on by child abuse etc. Too many elements and biased views.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, that is rough. I agree, there’s a lot of unknowns to every story, every incident. I once saw a news article featuring someone with a substance abuse problem being forced by the police to walk on the streets wearing a sign that says something along the lines of “I’m an addict.” I couldn’t stomach it. I thought it was inhumane. People with substance abuse problems are still people. They need rehabilitation, not humiliation.

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  7. We think this post is brave. We admire your willingness to look at the issue. Shaming is a form of punishment (publicly or otherwise). Punishments are violence (see Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication 3d ed). We oppose violence as a first resort to conflict resolution. Everyone has needs. Some people need more practice in expressing them. Please don’t shame people. Shame is toxic and can be deadly. Use love, listening, and help people who are hurting. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

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