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Has the Internet always facilitated the angry mob? Did it exist before social media? Why do people love throwing somebody in the “virtual stocks” and shaming them for a real or perceived transgression?

This session is inspired by an article published last week in the New York Times and written by Jon Ronson. It explores the impacts that public shaming on social media have on the people being shamed, primarily through a serious of interviews Ronson had with Justine Sacco. If you recall, she published a sarcastic tweet on her way to South Africa a few years ago that blew up into infamy in the course of hours.

Why does it feel so good to douse the internet in rotten tomato whenever somebody makes an off-base joke, or says something mildly offensive? In the long run, wouldn’t it be better to just let the comment fade into obscurity?

Are media outlets jumping on these transgressions as lazy ways to generate traffic, without consideration to the people they burn in the process?

Key Take Aways

  • Some context around the history of public shaming
  • Recent online transgressions that angered the mob
  • Why do people on the Internet foam at the mouth when they find something offensive?
  • Is the social web making us worse human beings?
  • Are we policing the internet, or just being jerks?
Intermediate Culture & Entertainment Session


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