What you’ll take away most from Jon Ronson’s investigative journalism book So, You’ve Been Publicly Shamed book is how terrifying the world of shaming is, especially at the hands of social media (that is, you). A lot of the time, the crime doesn’t fit the punishment. Many of the people Ronson interviewed for the book lost their jobs, some their entire reputations, making them unemployable and undateable, or received death threats. You may be surprised to find that these life-altering punishments are all for posting a stupid joke on Twitter or uploading a sassy photo to Facebook, the sort of things that many of us have done. You come away from the book with the terrible realization that “It could have just as easily happened to me.”
And then there’s the blurry line of context. Does it matter from whom the joke is from when we’re talking about offense? Can, in fact, a comedian get away with an edgy joke while a PR person cannot? What about commenting on a photo out of context of the series of photos that it belongs to? Does the context within that series matter if it could possibly be taken offensively? And while we’re at it, how politically correct are we expected to be outside of work in order to keep our jobs? I’m not implying an answer to these questions, but they are stirred up by reading this book.
Or like Mike Daisey doing a theatrical piece on his visits to Apple. I respectfully take an alternative stance to Mr. Glass who says that theatre-goers, unless told it’s fiction, assume that the reading or performance will be entirely factual. Maybe as a writer and comedy fan I’m in the minority, but I assume that most writers use what Tim O’Brien says about emotional truth being more real than happened truth. Now, O’Brien tells you upfront which stories are emotionally true vs. happened true, and he doesn’t go on a factual NPR program with his life-inspired fiction, but you can see where that slope many writers stand on gets slippery. Or, it’s perfectly believable that a writer might get lazy in fact checking Bob Dylan quotes that he’d prepared well before getting a book deal. I mean, how many times have you been lazy or forgotten to do something at work? Has it destroyed your entire career? What I guess I mean is maybe we should be a little nicer on the internet to people who make mistakes because you’re next.