Bullying and Shaming

Storytelling is a way of communicating a point but while providing resources to support the claims. Both danah boyd and Jon Ronson, convey their ideas surrounding the digital era using this method.

Through storytelling, Ronson and boyd discuss various “side effects” of social world through topics like bullying and shaming. Through their interviews with teens and members of their communities, they showed us as readers various elements that can be exposed through the various forms that the internet provides.

In boyd’s chapter on bullying, she discusses how it has become so easy for teens to express their feelings about others. Her definitions of bullying and drama both lead me to further think of the idea in relation to shaming. One definition of drama was, “performative, interpersonal conflict that takes place in front of an active, engaged audience, often on social media” (boyd 138). How is this different than Ronson’s shaming?

In Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, after an article was published regarding his mistakes, Jonah Lehrer was forced to make a public apology in which live tweets were displayed behind him. Jonah made a mistake and Michael Moynihan was able to monopolize on it. Michael wrote the article that exposed these mistakes, despite his reservations. Boyd talks about this issue of reservations through her experiences with Trevor and Matthew. She writes, “… they saw creating such incidences to be a source of entertainment, even when someone got hurt in the process” (boyd 129). So these topics of bullying and shaming may not be as different as the authors portray.

Michael, Trevor and Matthew were all using someone else’s mistake or lives to create their own forms of entertainment. Michael in writing about Jonah’s mistake and Trevor and Matthew pranking each other for social media to react to. Ronson also discusses how even despite hurting someone else, they may believe they are “doing something good” (104). He uses this to explain a guard’s actions in the Stanford Prison Experiment. While this “guard” acted violently towards “inmates”, he stated, “… I thought I was doing something good at the time” (Ronson 104). In these men’s actions, they were joking around with each other or just trying to make a living. And in the guards situation, he believed he was providing the desired results of the study.

Whether or not shaming and bullying are connected, both Ronson and boyd provide similar arguments supporting the idea that they are both a source of entertainment; even if someone gets hurt in the process.

Behind the Screen Bullies

Ronson and boyd dissect the same subject, but they take different approaches of doing so. They both focus on how technology affects and enhances the publicity of negatively treating others. Ronson discusses shaming and boyd discusses bullying. Bullying is a stepping stone on the way to shaming. As we discussed in class, bullying tends to be a more “private” form of harassment usually done by one specific person. Shaming is harassment done in a very public forum, and can be done by anyone with access to the situation – whether they know the person being shamed or not.

Ronson and boyd both explain how technology plays a major role in shaming and bullying. Shaming and bullying have been around for ages, as Ronson proves with a brief history anecdote, but are now becoming more public in a different light due to technology. The internet and social media have created numerous ways for shamers and bullies to harass people, and for others to join in on the bashing. Ronson highlights online shaming done to adults, but boyd proves online bullying happens with teens as well.
It is interesting to think about how technology has affected this issue – from the publicity of it to the amount of people participating in it. When I think about stories such as Justine Sacco’s, I wonder why so many people felt it was their job to publicly shame and harass her. Of course she tweeted an insensitive comment, but the lengths that people behind their screens went to to punish her is concerning. We all make mistakes, even though they may not be that public or extreme, so when did we decide to publicly humiliate and shame one another for those mistakes to this degree? Online shaming and bullying has gone from more than just attacking the person for their mistake. It turns into attacking their character and values, and destroying their life piece by piece. Most of the people Ronson highlighted lost their jobs due to the amount of public shaming they received. While I do not condone the mistakes of the people boyd and Ronson highlight, I also do not think that the level of bullying and shaming (or any of it for that matter) people have taken up are okay either. It is a complex issue with lots of layers; but, I think that Ronson and boyd have both written interesting and entertaining books that peel away at those layers in order to help us understand the connections between bullying and shaming and technology.