Public shaming has become a mainstay in social media. With the frequency of news being published and shared, it allows people to easily jump to conclusions. This is especially relevant when negative stories are released about individuals. People are quick to leave nasty comments, tweets and posts about the accused individual. This was especially relevant in the case of Justine Sacco, whose life was essentially changed forever with one tweet that was meant to be a joke. Now, I’m not defending Justine’s behavior and reckless style of tweeting. But, her case is a great example of how ruthless and unforgiving the internet can be when a normal person makes a simple mistake.
It’s okay to criticize people. It’s okay to disagree with people. But when cross the line of disagreement and criticism into personal and communal attacks, that’s where it becomes cyberbullying. When you find something on social media that angers or upsets you, it’s best to just take a step back, and evaluate the situation before hitting send. Social media makes it difficult for anyone to recover from being responsible for a post that others may find offensive, which makes using common sense the most effective posting strategy.
Monica Lewinsky says in her TED Talk that, “cruelty to others is nothing new, but online, technologically enhanced shaming is amplified, uncontained, and permanently accessible… millions of people, often anonymously, can stab you with their words, and that’s a lot of pain.” The internet has allowed a whole new realm of put downs, insults, and bullying. Luckily, there are initiatives like TrollBusters that are aiming to weed out many of these harmful comments. Still, we have a lot of work to do as a society in our use of social media if we’re going to work towards being more a compassionate and understanding social network. There is not any practical solution than just setting an example of love, compassion and understanding in your social media use.