I wish there was something society could do. Public shaming is certainly an issue and one that has only been magnified in the last decade due to the birth of social media. Monica Lewinsky perfectly articulated her horrifying experience with the issue in her recent Ted talk.
Monica talks a lot about society needing to become more compassionate in terms of social media. I agree with her however, I don’t foresee that happening in the near future. Maybe this is just my inner pessimist shining through but I think it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. It’s a sad reality.
Monica Lewinsky isn’t the only figure to be publicly humiliated. While her case happened in 1998 before social media was a thing, it laid the groundwork for future cases. It’s terrifying to think that something stupid myself or one of my friends does at this age can so quickly be turned against us publicly and out of context. Young adults have been doing stupid things since the beginning of time, but now for the first time those actions are being placed at the center stage.
Justine Sacco is the modern day Lewinsky in a sense. Her tweet, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white” went viral while she was flying to South Africa. While this doesn’t settle well in my stomach, and while I think Monica Lewinsky probably shouldn’t have fallen in love with her boss, I do think that we need to protect the person using their right of expression just as much as we are protecting the backlashers using theirs.
When Justine Sacco finally turned on her phone, she was bombarded by tweets from everyone who’d seen her post. Read this NY Times article for more information on how one tweet completely ruined her life. People make mistakes. It’s a shame that these instances are happening more often than not on such a public platform like social media. Literally anyone in the world can see, judge, and comment without knowing the context or the author personally. Bullying is easier than ever today because of social media, which means that more and more of it is happening.
It’s fine and dandy for me to sit here and say “social media needs to become a more compassionate place.” The fact of the matter is, this issue is not going to go away unless someone decided to step up and do something about it. In the mean time, everyone can do their part and stop clicking so frequently on these stories that have no worth.