Public shaming in the contemporary world

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Public shaming is the dishonoring platform of a person, usually an offender especially in a public place. In former times, public shaming was used as a means of punishment, but it is still being practiced different methods in the new era. Public shaming was practiced in different ways for example criminals being staged in towns and beaten by mob justice. Other forms of shaming were used to make the receivers to feel ashamed of their actions and strive to change (“Public Humiliation.”). Social media, in the contemporary world, offers a platform for people to engage in public shaming, which is in most cases anonymous. While the internet offers an integral platform for individuals to voice their ideas and proposals in a fast, it has transformed into a haven for public shaming and ridicule resulting in psychological and mental torture for the victims.

The most susceptible people to public shaming are the receivers of the punishment. This is because they have to undergo a very shameful experience in public. They are ashamed as a way of paying their wrongdoing which is painful than undergoing the legal process. The common forms of public humiliation in colonial America were the stock and pillory which was imported from (“Public Humiliation”). In the society today, public shaming has taken a different route in that peoples are using it as a means of revenge. The advancement in technology has worsened the rate at which peoples are using the media to humiliate others not necessarily for offending them but even because of ideological differences. In platforms in the social media especially Twitter and Facebook, public shaming has become the order of the day (Spencer Keys 20). People run to these platforms to humiliate others for maybe personal differences as well as different in views of a given area (Goldman 415). In the society public humiliation in recent times is being taken seriously and punishment is given to those who tend to shame others or as well post in the social media messages which affect a group of people.

A good example is the case of the executive Justine Sacco, who lost her job for posting a racist joke on the Twitter platform. She was the former director of corporate communication media company IAC and when she was boarding a plane to South Africa tweeted what she said was a joke but that what cost her the job. She tweeted ‘’Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white’’. To her, this was a joke, but the blacks took it as an insult, and they were waiting for her to land and made the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet as they wanted an explanation for her words.

Shaming of individuals in the society tells more on how the society values have been assumed. The society values do not create room for public humiliation of society members but the advancement in the technology has proved otherwise. It shows how disrespectful the society members have become and how ignorant they are as they seem not to care of the generation that is to come.  Spencer Keys notes “The publication of defamatory comments constitutes an invasion of the individual’s personal privacy and is an affront to that person’s dignity” (Spencer Keys 20). Respect for one another in the society is lost as many people run to the social media platforms when they have indifferences instead of trying to sort their issues respectfully.

For example, from the TV series on Netflix and narrated by Jay Asher “13 Reasons Why?” Hannah Baker kills herself in because of all the public shame and bullying she was receiving. During her freshman year she fell hard for this ‘bad boy’ and soon enough he became her first kiss. It was not long until this young man, Justin, began bragging about his hookup with the ‘new girl’. However, rumors started to unfold when Justin shared a picture on his cellphone to his friends, which was of Hannah with her underwear showing from under her skirt. This experience of Hannah Baker’s reputation was publicly shamed through a simple picture taken on a cellphone (“13 Reasons Why, season 1, episode 1”). Technology advances daily and allows children to have more access to everything. Both examples of public shaming of which Hannah and Justine are prime victims of embarrassment.

People seem to punish decent people for their wrongdoings for the return of righteousness. Online shaming has become overrated although social media will always be a place that people express their opinion. There are many examples of public shaming that happen in people’s daily lives and many of them are left unnoticed. In the case of Justine Sacco and Hannah Baker, bother present similar situations that gave people the opportunity to bully. Unfortunately, people sometimes tend to handle problems worse than others leading to death. In today’s society, voicing an opinion is no longer freedom of speech in America. It is important for people to demonstrate restraint to prevent public shaming, particularly on different online platforms.

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  1. “Tape 1, Slide A.” 13 Reasons Why, season 1, episode 1,” 31 March. 2017. Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/watch/80117471?trackId=200257846&tctx=0%2C0%2C1a756850-a8c2-4017-8527-805d180f03e4-11498309.
  2. Goldman, Lauren M. “Trending Now: The Use of Social Media Websites in Public Shaming Punishments.” Am. Crim. L. Rev. 52 (2015): 415.
  3. “Public Humiliation.” Www7.Dict.Cc, https://www7.dict.cc/wp_examples.php?lp_id=1&lang=en&s=public%20humiliation.
  4. Ronson, Jon. So, You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. Riverhead Books (US), and Pan Macmillan (UK), 2015
  5. Spencer Keys, J. D. “Reconceptualizing Reputation and Defamation for Cyber Speech: An analysis of Baglow v Smith.” (2016).
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