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.


A Tweet Is Worth a Thousand Lashes

After reading Ronson’s book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”, I think that the angle he takes in analyzing the use of social media to shame others quite intriguing. Obviously, this kind of online shaming happens quite frequently. That being said, what I find most interesting is the idea raised by Ronson that social media shaming is a reincarnation of the public punishment that pervaded American colonial times. Diving into American history, Ronson point out that public punishment was eventually made illegal in every US state, as it was perceived as too cruel and humiliating. However, he points out that online shaming is really no different than public punishment, perhaps with the exception of a lack of physical harm. In this way, there has almost been a renaissance in public punishment. This can be seen with writer Jonah Lehrer, who after he was caught plagiarizing material in his works, sought to apologize to the public. However, his public apology was made standing next to a big screen twitter feed where people slammed his apology and tormented him in real-time. As Ronson states, “As Jonah Lehrer stood in front of that giant-screen Twitter feed on February 12, 2013, he experienced something that had been widely considered appalling in the eighteenth century” (Ronson 56). Thus, Ronson is stating that Lehrer was in this moment a victim of the modern rebirth of public punishment through online shaming.


Moreover, an interesting note to take away from Ronson so far is the contrast between his angle of looking at social media, and how other authors like danah boyd view its use. While Ronson sees social media through the lens of a “great renaissance of public shaming”, danah looks at the use of social media on a much broader spectrum (Ronson 10). Although danah boyd does acknowledge the use of social media as a tool for bullying, she does not mention its utilization specifically for shaming, but rather for the incitement of teenage drama. “Whereas adults might have labeled many of these practices as bullying, teens saw them as drama” (boyd 137). Here, boyd points out the fact that many teens who use social media see actions that can hurt others as drama, not bullying. Moreover, boyd mentions bullying and more specifically bullying through the guise of drama, but does not discuss bullying at all through the guise of public shaming. Furthermore, boyd goes on to discuss the positive influences of social media and looks at it through a variety of paradigms. Ronson, however, sticks to the phenomenon of shaming, which can easily be labeled negative. What’s more, while boyd and Ronson are both discussing different forms of online bullying, both of the groups doing this bullying rarely see themselves as bullies. Teens see themselves as starting drama, according to boyd. Similarly, those shaming others using the internet see themselves as vigilantes and proponents of online justice.

Class, Mon, 4/03

Ronson, Shamed

Jon Ronson, “When Online Shaming Goes Too Far,” TED Talk, June 2015.


  • How would you compare Ronson’s perspective on digital culture to those offered by Carr and boyd?
  • What are some of the affordances and constraints of the TED Talk as a signature form of our time?

Writing, First Response to Ronson

In responding to Ronson, I’d like you to connect or contrast his thinking with Carr and/or boyd. I’ll expect you in doing so to quote directly from at least two of these three books.

Readings for Friday: Fake News, Privacy, and Surveillance

To Do

  1. Wed, 4/05, class: Locate two passages from Ronson, Carr, and/or boyd that you think you’d like to work with in your response. Bring the books with you, and come ready to discuss the connections and contrasts you see between them.
  2. Thurs, 4/06, 10:00 am: Post your response to Ronson to this site. Use your group number as your category.
  3. Fri, 4/07, class: Read the articles by boyd and Levy. Read and post comments on your group member’s responses to Ronson.