Social Shaming: The two edged knife

Public Shaming

Today almost everyone is online. Being online is no longer an option, it has become an extension of the life we lead offline. But with the flurry of people going social, there are many new issues and complications that are now coming to the fore. And among the most disturbing and dangerous of these is the phenomenon of Social Shaming. This is now growing into a menace that needs to be checked. This has started turning us into a very polarized society with rigid stances and blind aggression

Public Shaming

People are finding that shaming someone on Social Media is easy and the lack of verification or cross-checks is just helping this dangerous trend grow very fast. All that one needs to get literally a mob to e-lynch anyone is just a tweet or a post or a photo. So polarized is the social media space that no questions are asked and no prisoners are taken.

What we need to realize when we do this is that there are no un-shaming options and the damage that is done is mostly permanent or life-long. We as responsible netizens need to have checks and controls in place before jumping to take sides in any issue that is polarizing the online space.

Take for example A who is friends with B. Both are online and both have their circles. Now one day, A has a spat with B and decides to out some really damaging information about B in a fit or rage. And A does that online with photos or posts. The prevailing climate on Social Media is such that the crowd will hang B without bating an eyelid and even the main stream media houses will jump in for their perceived piece of the pie. I have personally seen cases where the media went to town painting someone as totally negative, only to realize later that they listened only to one side of the story and the truth was different.

But sadly, by that time, the total damage to the target individual or entity is so deep that it is irreversible. The media – both social and main stream, move to the next story. The affected party suffers and for all you know, it is for something that was harmless or they were wronged to begin with.

So what can be done to address this problem? Sadly, there is no magic wand, or one single step that will get this done. It is a change of mindset and restricting the trigger happy armies that pride in armchair activism that will fix this and that is a painfully long process.

I sincerely request my learned and well informed friends from the media who are on “twitter beat” or “digital beat” to please use the same thorough investigation and verification process that they use so well for everything else they cover. We, The people give you our trust and it is at a monumental scale where we literally take you to be the epitomes of gospel truth and our society quite literally reacts and moves based on what you tell us.

To my friends on Social Media who are wielding the immense power of unfathomable reach that Social Media offers, I humbly suggest that you do the following before getting trigger happy and propagating the public shaming of someone.

  1. Please never ever react instantaneously
  2. Think and analyze, especially if there is any bias or partiality that is creeping in due to your relationship with the person/entity that is starting the shaming
  3. If the answer to the above is even a partial “yes”, please DO NOT jump in to the debate
  4. If you do not know both the parties and feel strongly about the issue in question, please observe, analyze and take time to take sides, never get into it with a gut feel. Remember that you can literally destroy a person online and offline in one hurried second
  5. In general, it is a good idea to not express abrasive, radical or abusive thoughts online, it is a two-edged sword, cuts both ways
  6. Put yourself in the shoes of both parties and think, then decide
  7. Don’t take sides based on like or dislike, that never goes well
  8. Never do anything online that you wouldn’t do offline, would you jump into an argument between strangers on the road and take sides and call your friends also to do the same? I am guessing not
  9. Remember the fact that anonymity online is just notional and anyone can be very easily tracked down and found if the right authorities are involved, so if you are thinking that it will save you, well, it won’t
  10. Last but not the least – Remember that there are three sides to ever story – Yours, Mine and The Truth. Wait for all of them to emerge and then take sides by all means

This post is not advice, rules or guidelines. This post is from me, a friend who has been at the sending and the receiving end of online shaming and has suffered and regretted a lot in the past, I do not want you to go through the same. Also note that I am not saying that all accused are innocent, I am just saying that we should wait for all facts to come out and then decide what is what.

If you have any thoughts or points to add, please leave me a comment and we can discuss this clearly and get to a consensus.

About Shakthi

I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.

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