“I found no evidence that punitive shaming fell out of fashion as a result of newfound anonymity. But I did find plenty of people from centuries past bemoaning the outsize cruelty of the practice, warning that well-meaning people, in a crowd, often take punishment too far.”
For the longest time Jon Ronson reveled in the fact that Twitter gave a voice to the voiceless … the social media platform gave us all a chance to speak up and hit back at perceived injustice. But somewhere along the way, things took a turn. In this passionate, eloquent talk, Ronson explains how too often we end up behaving like a baying mob — and that it’s time to rethink how we interact with others online.
What role did social media play?
The story fast became a scandal. Later, many people questioned whether the outrage was necessary.
Social media offered many opportunities for (quite justified) outrage this year. But did they come at a price?
The anatomy of the Twitterstorm that cost media PR pro Justine Sacco her job.
Justine Sacco was not the first person to get herself fired for saying something stupid on Twitter. She won’t be the last. Every medium and technology ever invented carries its own perils, but there’s something about social media in general and Twitter in particular that invites and rewards self-damaging behavior.
Was the outrage justified?
With tools like Twitter and Facebook and the focus on real-time news, a single comment or bad joke or moment of poor decision-making can quickly escalate into an international incident. But is this kind of behavior a good thing? Is this how we encourage positive social values now? Or is it just a faster and more modern variation on the ugly mob?
Perhaps being silent, perhaps recognising stupidity for what it is – as in this, harmless – and moving on is an option we need to cultivate more of. If you need to assert how much of not a racist, not a sexist, not a bigot you are through merely conveying animosity of those areas – instead of advancing them in other, more meaningful ways – then you’re adding noise to an already loud moral explosion.
As sport in the Twitterverse, destroying Justine Sacco should bother all of us
It’s all very well to feel that you’re fighting the good fight against racism and ignorance by marshaling your righteous outrage in 140 characters or less, but really, the end result here is that… one fundamentally insignificant PR type at a company that owns a bunch of silly Internet brands has lost her job.
She’s white, well-off and already has a new job. So why is Justine Sacco our poster child for victims of public shaming?
It seems we’re all public figures and paparazzi now; trial by social media has ruled that the accused be reprimanded swiftly in 140 characters, with lazy and possibly sexist swipes, threats and sentences probably worse than the initial Tweet itself.
When Ronson wrote about the injustice of Justine Sacco’s trial by Twitter, he found that he too became a target of an internet witch hunt. How did we become unpaid shaming interns for companies that don’t care about us?
What can we learn?
Publishing is a privilege. And our actions—in the case of publishing, our actions are our words—are what matter.
“Our shaming has moved to people who misuse privilege, which of course is a better thing to be annoyed about than people who go to an S&M club. But, we’ve started to just be so in love with destroying people that we start doing it to people who don’t deserve it.”
The internet took Sacco’s South African Aids tweet too personally. The reaction was also ignorant and prejudiced
More About Justine
There’s no defending her outrageous tweet. But there are reasons why she could have been so blind
Anyone working on any endeavor needs someone smart enough to tell them to just shut up, which is why Justine Sacco is the most qualified person in her entire field. She has the expertise of ten lifetimes when it comes to dealing with bad press. She survived a genuine personal crisis. She’s unkillable, and smart, and she will tell you to shut up, idiot, it can’t get any worse.