Ronson for the Gold

I find it very ironic that as we are currently talking about social media and public shaming, two of the biggest shaming of the year so far have occurred. Different from Ronson’s examples of public shaming, these shamings are against companies not individual people. If any of you keep up with the latest trends on Twitter, you might have  seen the constant criticisms about Pepsi’s new commercial starring Kendall Jenner, along with the most recent United Airways incident. Both of these subjects have received massive amounts of shaming from Twitter users. Just as Ronson talks about the impact Twitter users have on the lives of those being shamed, today’s users have had large impacts on the individual companies. Not only are these companies being publicly shamed on social media, but Twitter users have decided to take it a step farther and actually boycott the companies. Both of which have already seen a drop in stocks because of the constant backlash from people. Both companies tried one of the approaches Ronson discussed in his book about how to survive public shaming: not being ashamed. Pepsi and United Airways defended themselves against the attackers by standing their ground about their actions. Unfortunately, that did not go over well with users. Pepsi was forced to take down the commercial and United Airways now has a possible lawsuit against them.

In Ronson’s book, he talks about many other examples of public shaming that he has witnessed and come to discover. From Justine Sacco to Max Mosley, Ronson takes us through the details of each situation and then talks with victims and attackers to see how the incident has affected them. Although at times Ronson does seem to take a comparable stance with Carr about technology, I really don’t feel that Ronson’s book is all that similar to the other two we have read. Yes, Ronson mostly talks about public shaming using technology, but his main concern in the book isn’t technology. His main concern is public shaming. Technology just happens to be a part of that in modern-day. Carr and Boyd however write specifically about the effects of using technology. They analyze research data and make a conclusion based on what they have found. Ronson’s stance on technology isn’t as clear. It seems throughout the book that at times, he stands on the side of the attackers, but once he talks with the victims and sees how easily a public shaming incident can ruin a person’s life, he grows more sympathy for them.

Boyd and Ronson do overlap some of the same ideas however. Boyd also interviews many teens to find out exactly how they feel about technology and their experiences while using it. I think that after talking with those people, Boyd came to a more positive conclusion about technology. She doesn’t blame technology for the evils that have occurred in society. Bullying. Shaming. They have all already been in our lives but now technology just amplifies them. Ronson also touches on this point. He discussed how public shaming and humiliation started back in colonial times. But, even though it was eventually outlawed, shaming in everyday situations continues to happen. Ronson interviewed many of the attackers and asked them if they felt any guilt when ruining that person’s life. Some were very remorseful about it when seeing the after effects, however others felt that it was “their duty” to call out the evil before them. (Carr would argue that people feel less empathy and sympathy for the victims they attacked because of their immense usage of technology.) Ronson makes the point that each of the attackers made a choice as to whether they wanted to shame that person or not. Whether they thought they were “doing something good” or not, they each made the choice. Technology never came into play when making their decision. Technology just amplified that decision so that millions of people across the world could now take part in the shaming as well (another choose that users have).

Overall, I think I preferred Ronson’s book out of the three. He didn’t take a scientific stand point about the issue he discussed. His journalistic skill allowed him to tell a story while also adding his own opinion after each story. Because of this I didn’t feel as though he was forcing me to feel a certain way about technology and public shaming. He just gave me the information I needed to come to my own conclusion.

Don’t Point Fingers Regardless of Your Intentions

Ronson was onto something when he analyzed the Stanford Prison Experiment and interviewed the people involved. He thought he had debunked this widely known experiment but instead, his findings were still incredibly applicable to the observations he makes on social media and the viewpoints danah boyd shares in her book It’s Complicated. Specifically, they both discuss social media as an immensely powerful tool that can be used for good or bad but at the end of the day it is the person behind the screen who is at fault for their actions online.

Boyd examines the presence of bullying amongst teens on social media and Ronson examines the modern publicity of shaming. Regardless, both agree that about root of any good or bad and boyd explains herself when she says: ““People choose what to spread online, but the technologies that they use to do so are created to increase the visibility of content that will attract the most attention” (Boyd 146). Social media users decide what they post, whether it may be an insensitive tweet about AIDS or an attack in response to that. Nevertheless, this content is more public than ever because things like retweets, shares, likes and reposts exist. Just over a decade ago, this wasn’t the case; the only people who had a voice were people in the public eye but now “The silenced were getting a voice. It was like the democratization of justice.” However, some people may not know what to do with this newfound power or how to use it for good.

I think this goes back to Ronson’s discovery: study participant, Dave Eshelman, who played the role as a guard and seemed to have become irrationally violent admitted that everything he did was on purpose because he thought he was doing something good at the time. This directly relates to boyd’s position “The dynamics of drama and attention don’t unfold because of social media, even if teens can use technology for these purposes” (Boyd 147). Twitter is not to blame for the absurd tweets sent to Sacco about deserving to get fired and raped. Twitter users thought they were doing something good by addressing an inappropriate tweet but although their intentions may have been honest they were just adding to the cycle of violence.

I don’t know if this stems from my optimistic nature, but I genuinely feel that the vast majority of people are not evil to the core. Shamings happen because in a crowd every sentiment and act is contagious and teens bully because they are so easily influenced by their peers. Ronson observes the powerful phenomena of public shaming on social media and boyd picks apart the roles of social media and of its users. I feel that they too would agree that everyone has flaws but it is much easier to pick at someone else’s and forget your own.

It’s A Complicated World of Public Shaming

In both Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated, there are endless discussions regarding social media and the impact it has on society. At one point in Boyd’s book she discusses bullying, and although she focuses on an examples with participants a lot younger than Ronson’s example of Justine Sacco, they both highlight some of the ways social media can seep into all parts of our world. When talking to two sisters, Abigail and Ashley, it eventually became evident that Abigail regarded her sister as a bully, recounting endless stories to Boyd. She first discusses an IM incident where Ashley and her friends would say mean things about another girl in their 4th grade class, eventually spreading to the little girl, then came parental involvement, and eventually what Ashley could and couldn’t do was all based around this one incident. Although it is pretty obvious that what Ashely was doing would never have positive effects, she didn’t intentionally mean for it to grow to the proportion it did. Even Abigail noticed, “…Ashley didn’t seem to understand that she hurt people whenever she lashed out” (129). The power of social media doesn’t stop as you get older either, as we see in Ronson’s book.

Justine Sacco made a huge mistake by making her acerbic joke about not getting AIDS in Africa because she’s white to the public on such a sensitive issue. As Ronson spoke with her, Justine obviously didn’t intend for the wrath she ignited, but in an instant (a plane ride), her entire career, social life, and life in general were flipped upside down. All day she had been making crass tweets that got little, if any, attention from her followers and the bad wording of one tweet sent the media into a frenzy. To most people, this was not a joke, it was just a privileged, white woman being oblivious to the struggles of others and reveling in their misfortune. But Justine never really received the chance to explain her intentions, her life had already changed before she even turned her phone back on. Justine had a different perspective when viewing her tweet, “to me, it was so insane a comment for an American to make I thought there was no way that anyone could possibly think it was a literal statement” (73). Although I don’t agree this justifies her actions, I think it is a bit extreme that her entire life got derailed by us, other people spending our free time on social media. Ronson pointed out, “Justine Sacco felt like the first person I had ever interviewed who had been destroyed by us” (71). I think in both of these books we can see that as the people behind the screens, we have the power to decide the content that we upload and indulge in, but it all comes down to a choice.

Ronson, boyd

Robson and boyd have one definite thing in common- their books about social media. This is very broad, so the topics I narrowed down are public shaming and being private vs. public. These topics are intertwined together with ideas, facts, and experiences by the authors, although they go about them very differently.

Painting a picture is an easy way to intrigue the reader, and this is exactly what Ronson does. Instead of him just explaining what had happened when he met someone, he adds in so much detail that you can picture Ronson sitting there across from the person. He even quotes conversations that he wasn’t even in, giving the reader all the information needed to understand a story- which is extremely important.

Ranson’s view of social media is through public shaming. This is done through Twitter, Facebook, etc., and it gives people easy access to publicly shame someone, however, it is the people doing the shaming and not the social media. I think many people do and say things online that they would never do or say in person, and social media gives them that opportunity to say mean things on the internet or even ruin someone’s life.

boyd mentions the difference between private vs. public. boyd’s writing is similar and different from Ronsons. She does interview many people, which is her “go to” way of backing up her ideas, but she doesn’t paint a picture as well as Ronson does.

She focuses more on teens and their use in social media. When she mentions the difference between private vs. public, which goes along with Ronson’s views, she mentions Facebook. boyd says that if you’re on social media your “public by default.” This is true, because anyone can see what you post. “Teens often inadvertently play into another common rhetorical crutch- the notion that privacy is necessarily only for those who have something to hide.” (pg. 63)

These topics between Ronson and boyd go hand-in-hand. You should know what you are posting online, and you should understand the difference between what is to be private or public. Some things posted on social media are too private for viewers, or too private for the person posting them, but they don’t see it that way. And in some cases, people have been publicly shamed because of this.

Power of the Internet, as Told by Ronson and Carr

The powers of the Internet are understated and not completely grasped by many in the year two thousand seventeen. People of all kinds and ages feel the impact and long term affects of the Internet, especially the social media aspect, on a regular basis all across the globe. Two scholars that have delved into these impacts in novels are Nicholas Carr and Jon Ronson in their books The Shallows and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Both men are cynical of the Internet and wary of its power upon its users, but address it in similar yet distinct ways from one another. Carr wrote about how the world has become almost desensitized to the way posts on social media impact readers, as the attention spans of the average Internet users are significantly shorter now than they ever have been before. Because of this lack of long-term attentiveness towards media we are exposed, we as individuals do not completely understand that what we post will continue to have its presence felt for quite some time to come. Posts do not just disappear on the World Wide Web, they remain there and their message can be felt consistently for a long time to come, regardless of the intentions or the purpose. In Carr’s own words, “When we’re online, we’re often oblivious to everything else going on around us. The real world recedes…”  (Carr, 118) We are unaware of the world around us, and that leads to the hurt. While Ronson may not talk about the memory of the social media users, he writes about the results of these peoples inability to grasp the meaning of their words online. Ronson explains that these posts can sustain more than just skin deep hurt feelings; comments on the internet have the ability to cut very deep and to leave emotional scars that are sometimes more painful than real ones. Ronson speaks of many situations where a tweet or a post of some kind on social media irrevocably changed the life of a person in ways that they could never possibly imagined, yet it all happened to fast and easily. While interviewing Adria Richards in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Ronson recorded a response of the affected woman to her life changing social media calamity, which was that, “I felt betrayed. I felt abandoned. I felt ashamed. I felt rejected. I felt alone.” (Ronson, 121) These are not words to be taken lightly or to be used if not warranted by true sadness and negative impact. They illustrate the true feelings emitted by these situations, and Ronson understood that. Both he and Carr, from different angles, showed their audience that the power innate within social media is not be be trifled with or thought nothing of. Social media and the Internet have the ability to change lives, both for better and for worse.

Not So Different After All

Ronson describes in his book, So You’ve Been Publically Shamed, the downfalls of social media. Public shaming has seen a rise in recent times. In my opinion, Ronson takes the stance that social media has its positives but, at the same time, extreme negatives. Carr also views social media in a negative light in his book, The Shallows.  Ronson and Carr have many opposing ideas, but do show similarities in the fact that they both recognize the downfalls of social media.

Ronson and Carr agree on the fact that social media and technology are a powerful tool. Carr discusses in his book that with technology came a rewiring of our brains and loss of compassion. While I don’t think Ronson would agree with that technology rewired our brains, Ronson does agree that there is a lack of compassion on social media: “During the months that followed, it became routine. Everyday people, some with young children, were getting annihilated for tweeting some badly worded joke to their hundred or so followers”(Ronson 67). We have become desensitized to the vicious public shaming occurring on a daily basis. Ronson saw with his own eyes how quickly someone could be taken down by everyday people on social media, and the effect it has on that person. Social media can be too powerful. Carr shares that belief that social media is dangerous in many different ways. On the other hand, a major difference between Ronson and Carr is that Carr addresses technology more and how technological advances are causing this decrease in empathy. Ronson seems to believe that it has always been there.

Another major different between Ronson and Carr is that Carr believes technology is to blame for our problems with social media. I think that Carr is incorrect in this conclusion, and my thinking much closer aligns with boyd and Ronson. Boyd refutes Carr’s claims eloquently in her book, It’s Complicated. She and Ronson believe that people are to blame for our problems with social media rather than technology: “Blaming technology or assuming that conflict will disappear if technology usage is minimized is naïve”(boyd 152). Ronson shares similar thinking because he relates current public shaming to the public punishment of the past. Social media was not around during the times of public punishment, so people are the reason for these actions; not technology. Boyd and Ronson, on the surface, seem to be the most similar. However, I believe Ronson, boyd, and Carr all share a similar sense of cynicism toward human nature and society.


Adolescence and Social Media

While I was reading Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed And Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated, I thought that Boyd made a convincing case on why it is so hard to live the way Ronson thinks people should. He said, “A lot of people move around in life chronically ashamed of how they look, or how they feel, or what they said, or what they did. it’s like a permanent adolescent concern. adolescence is when you’re permanently concerned about what other people think of you” (pg. 158). Ronson’s stance on how ease an individuals adolescence is that we should all try engaging life in the way a dog. He states, “A dog doesn’t lie. A dog doesn’t feel shame. A dog lives in the moment…We should be like dogs” (pg. 159). A way of achieving that shame-free lifestyle is method created by Blad Blanton, Ronson’s associate, is called “‘Radical Honesty”‘ (pg. 158). Essentially, radical honesty is a person admitting or following through with whatever is on his or her mind, no matter how weird or crazy the thought and that it is the only way to build real relationships.

In Boyd’s book, she talks about a past conversation she had with these two young girls Ashely and Abigail and recalls when Abigail told Boyd that their mom had treated the Abigail better than Ashely because of the way Ashely acted. Boyd recalls Ashley mentioning things that happened in her school such as “when boys mocked cheerleaders for their eating habits. Gossip about who might be pregnant, who was hooking up with whom, and who did what while drunk appeared to be standard fare” (pg. 130). Boyd then goes on to talk about how the way teens and young adults go about life, can really impact the way others live their lives. Boyd says, “the rise of social media has prompted tremendous concern about “cyberbullying.” Although the data suggests otherwise, the assumption among many parents and journalists is that social media radically increases bullying” (pg. 130).

The connection I want to make between the two authors is yes, Ronson has a good way of engaging life and it is probably the way everyone should try to live, but in today’s times with social media increasing and generations changing, it is very hard to live life using “radical honesty”. Personally, I think that using radical honesty or living in the moment is a hard thing to do because the times have changed and its harder to be a teen growing up then it was in the past. I chose the quote about all the high school things because it is a perfect example of the things teen and young adults think about now and with social media around, its easier to get those things out in the open. The one thing I don’t agree with about radical honesty is that there are levels of appropriateness that people should reach as they grow in life and radical honesty might now allow people to understand that. Continue reading “Adolescence and Social Media”