Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review: So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Title: So You've Been Publicly Shamed
Author: Jon Ronson
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Audible
Content Alert: Some swearing

I have a teenage daughter who uses social media. This means that I am intimately aware of all of the insecurities of how what she puts out there (or what other people put out there) reflects on her. She agonizes over her captions, posts just enough but not too much, and could tell you exactly how many "likes" each of her Instagram pictures has. I'm not nearly as careful at cultivating my public persona as she is. I'll post something with typos and triple chins. So maybe one day I will be in need of Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed, a book inspired by his personal experience in the arena, when a fake Twitter account was set up in his name, providing his friends with frequent updates about his sexual proclivities and what he was eating.

The book goes on to follow the stories of others who have been shamed or outed. Ronson runs the gamut from Jonah Lehrer (the author and former New Yorker writer whose most recent book was recalled after it was revealed that interviews were made up), a pretty famous guy who mostly seemed unhappy that he'd been caught doing what he was doing, to an unknown software engineer who lost his job after a woman with a mission took a picture of him at a conference where he'd made a snarky comment to a friend, to the girl whose whole life was basically ruined when she took a rude photo at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (it's a long story, and she acknowledges it was in bad taste). Ronson explores what public shaming does to people, and how social media can not only be a place where people can embarrass themselves, but it can also function as a frenzied mob where people get all fired up and hurt mostly innocent people over relatively small things. It's definitely a thought-provoking read, and an important one in our current day and age.

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