Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

This is a fantastic and fascinating read from Ronson, a writer I’ve admired for a while (in the past he’s covered conspiracy theories and the business of mental health) and it sees him tackle a serious problem of the social media age, public shaming and Twitter mobs.

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Ronson begins with the story of a spam bot on Twitter under his name, he talks to the inventors who refuse to budge and then backtrack when the story is public and Twitter trashes them. He admits to enjoying this, seeing it as a form of social justice, the community calling out wrongdoing. As bigoted columnists get taken down too, all seems well, and Ronson wonders if this shaming could be a new force for good.

And so he digs, interviewing those who have been shamed- a writer exposed of faking quotes, a man making a lame joke at a conference who was photographed and shared online and a woman who tweeted a poorly worded joke, boarded a flight and landed to a storm that claimed her job and shook her life.

Over the course of the book Ronson examines how shame works, investigates how it’s best to ride out a scandal and questions what motivates the public to pile on somebody’s error. He starts to realise this isn’t the community rallying, but an online lynch mob, out for blood.

It’s a great read, witty and well observed, with Ronson exhibiting genuine warmth and compassion as he interviews the various players. He delves into his own feelings about the shaming and investigates the fall out for the victims.

Like his other books he starts with a simple concept and branches out, coming at it from different angles and examining different aspects. It’s interesting to hear from both sides and to realise just how savage the online world can be.

I blazed through it in days and it does make you think about social media and how quick it is to condemn, and how quickly it can escalate. Some of the stories are sad, some frustrating but there are moments of humanity and warmth and it’s well worth reading, if only because it might help you pause before you hit “send” when the next social media boogeyman appears.

Verdict: A clever and well written look at public shaming and it’s impact. Ronson looks at it from various angles and confronts his own role in the cycle, and it’s the kind of book that provides you with considerable food for thought. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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One Comment on “Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson”

  1. […] Ronson delves into the world of online jobs and shaming in a clever, funny and well researched book. He writes with compassion and he goes off in different directions. Review. […]


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