the walking writer

“So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”
Author: Jon Ronson

"So You've Been Publicly Shamed" CoverPeople say stupid things; it’s just a fact of life. Before the Internet however, people said stupid things to their friends and family and were unlikely to lose their jobs over it. “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” covers a few choice stories of recent public shaming that occurred on social media. They are all stories you’ll probably recognize if you’re on social media or go to Google News occasionally. Through the book, the author explains each story and interviews the individuals involved, giving them a chance to give their side of the story. After reading the book, I came to the following conclusions:

  • People don’t deserve to lose their jobs over a stupid picture, joke, Tweet, etc.
  • People also don’t deserve the malice and attacks they get from anonymous Internet users when the person in question does something stupid.
  • If you want to avoid losing your job and getting attacked, you need to learn to be smart about what you share. Predicting what will go viral is impossible; all it takes is someone with more followers than you to make something of yours go big.

If you are really into social media, either as a user or observer, I highly recommend this book. I hope this book might help some individuals remember to think before they get angry at a silly tweet a random stranger made. Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the online fervor when someone says something stupid. But, should you really feel good yourself about causing someone to lose their job just because they made a stupid joke?

After I finished this book, I admit there was a small part of me that wanted nothing to do with the Internet ever again. I’ve seen way too many examples of people treated horribly online for no good reason; sometimes it doesn’t even take a bad joke to rile up some corners of the Internet. There is lots of good to be found on the Internet, but sadly there is plenty of bad too. However, I hope that this book will start an important conversation and maybe change a few minds.

I’m not a big user of social media. I had a Twitter account for my blog once, but I typically used my tweets just to rant about stupid stuff; I ended up deleting it. I do have a Pinterest account, but I tend to think of that as a collection of pretty pictures, not really a place to socialize. I’ve had to spend plenty of hours writing about social media for clients, however, so I’ve certainly spent enough time on social media networks to understand the basics. That said, there are still plenty of things that make no sense to me on social media:

Parents Who Overshare Details About Their Kids

This one is worthy of a series of blog posts, but I’ll keep it short. I do not understand parents who must share every detail of their children. Although there are many issues with this (including people who use innocent pictures for inappropriate purposes), I tend to focus on the following: the children pictured have no say in what their parents are publishing. Years down the road, these kids are not going to be too happy that pictures of them sitting on the toilet are all over the Internet for their employers and significant others to see.

Hashtagging Everything to Death

Hashtags are useful things; they help people find content and help you organize your own content. However, using a dozen hashtags for each Instagram or Twitter post is ridiculous and looks like spam.

Using Social Media to Talk to Your Significant Other

Don’t you have your partner’s telephone number? Sure, maybe you’re at work and can’t use your phone, but can’t you just send an email instead? Why do the rest of us need to witness your conversation about your dinner plans?

Missionary Work

I use Facebook solely to keep in touch with my family, not to read religious news and inspirational quotes. It’s your Facebook, so of course you’re free to do what you want with it. But is it really worth annoying your family members just to share stuff like this? If you really want to post religious stuff and have discussions, consider starting a blog for it.

People Who Retweet Constantly

I’ve seen Twitter accounts that seem to serve little purpose except to retweet other people’s Tweets over and over. It surprises me to see accounts with such little original content managing to have thousands of followers.

Maybe this list just proves that I’m too old and uncool for social media. Oh well.