When social media was first created (Twitter & Facebook and the like), there was a utopian dream that it would lead to bridge building, greater understand between peoples and peace on earth for all men. What actually happened was that we ended up only talking to people like us and treating everyone else as some kind of demon from the third pit of hell.
What we did was bring back and amplify the power of shame. Say something wrong and you could be hounded to the point where people have lost jobs for, in some cases, just being a bit silly.
Jon Ronson takes up the challenge after having his identity pinched on Twitter and discovers how, he, and thousands of others have become a scary, justice & wrath bringing mob with Twitter as their prime mode of court & execution.
It’s a funny, insightful and eye-opening investigation. It is also regularly stocked with expletives and some unsavoury scenes so be warned.It is of course also thoroughly limited in its worldview and not applicable to billions of people, but to the liberati of cities like London or New York it is very relevant indeed.
Public shaming has a long and notorious history but what has changed are the targets of shaming – often not having done anything but instead said or thought something that offends another group. Women in particular come in for particularly poor treatment, from men & women alike. Men may lose their jobs, women get threatened with rape. Social media are not the ‘safe spaces’ they were supposed to be – or at least not safe if you voice a contrary opinion and that is the point. Shame is used as a means of control of shutting down dissent or expelling the miscreant and so leaving the circle once again safe for every one who thinks just like you.
If you, or any one you know, is a heavy user of social media then this book should be gifted to them this Christmas.