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It's not subjective...

I don't understand the point of "shaming" on twitter and facebook... well, actually, I do understand the point of it. It's to use the social media to make a person or a group of people feel embarrassed, ashamed or humiliated in order to get them to conform to a behavior that you feel is more appropriate.

That's a good definition, right?

I mean, someone goes to a restaurant and doesn't leave a tip (or an appropriate tip), you can post that on twitter or facebook or tumblr. This is done in order to force that that person/people/group to leave more money next time. Other people see the post, repost it and soon there is a whole group of people out there pointing out how "shameful" the behavior was and how this person or group fail at being decent human beings.

What I don't understand is how this differs from bullying.

Bullying is making someone feel ashamed or embarrassed in order to coerce them into changing a behavior. Okay -- the exact definition is "Use superior strength or influence to intimidate, typically to force him or her to do what one wants", but since intimidation certainly isn't limited to physical force, I think that using shame and embarrassment works here.

In fact, most bullying these days doesn't involve physical force at all. So much of bullying is about creating a situation where the bully gets others to help with the ridicule and humiliation -- usually by using sarcasm and insulting humor -- so that the target feels powerless and overwhelmed. And, let's face it, sarcasm and insulting humor is the cornerstone of a large amount of social media. How is this not bullying?

I know that there are people reading this who don't agree. There is the opinion that this behavior isn't "bullying" as long as it forces people to behave in a correct and good way. Conforming to the necessary societal norms helps us all. If using "shaming" forces people to do this, (the logic goes) how can that be wrong?

People need to leave an appropriate tip, because waitresses and waiters need that money as part of their pay. Public shaming will make them live up to that societal agreement.

And people that drive badly, who cause problems for others -- well, why call 1-800-reportme, when you can post it online, get more exposure. Plus, you get a ton of LOLs and "I agree all those guys are idiots" just to make you feel better.

And people who dress poorly, who wear clothes that are clearly not flattering, who look awful and offensive-- Well, hell, that just has to be shared because obviously shaming is the only way to get them to understand that they need to look pleasing to others before they leave the house. Besides, looking at all those stupid people who are in the pics at "seen at walmart" is so much fun, right? I mean, it makes you feel good because you're obviously better than them and it makes you feel part of the group of all those people who are equally disgusted and revolted by the pictures. Through shame and humiliation we can band together and force those misguided people into becoming more socially acceptable. Or make them fear going out so much that they just stay hidden away. That will make the world a better place for us, too. Win-win.

And sexual deviancy -- people who engage in So sorry. That's no longer a societally acceptable "shame target". Shaming based on sexual behavior is bullying. It's so 1950s and we're definitely over that.

Gotta keep up with societal changes here.

That's the problem with this type of Machiavellian ethics, it's inconsistent and changes with whims of those who make up "society". When it's the desired result that determines whether something is good or bad and not the behavior itself, there is no real right or wrong, it's all subjective.

Right and wrong isn't subjective. If the behavior inflicts pain or embarrassment, then it's wrong behavior. If you get pleasure from inflicting emotional distress other people, that also is wrong behavior.

Shaming is bullying and bullying is wrong. It doesn't matter who the target is.



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Aug. 1st, 2013 11:01 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. People seem to have the idea that they have a right to dictate behavior according to their own narrow view. Who made these jerks God, anyway? You're absolutely correct - it's nothing more than cyber-bullying and these social media sites that allow it are as much to blame as the idiots posting.
Aug. 2nd, 2013 03:55 am (UTC)
Not only the social media sites but also all the people who jump on the bandwagon without actually knowing any of the facts of the matter being discussed. Those who go with the sarcasm just to feel part of the crowd.
Aug. 2nd, 2013 12:12 am (UTC)
Before I write anymore, I should just point out that my connection with social media like Twitter or Tumblr is weak at best, so I haven't witnessed a lot what you're writing about first hand.

I did want to write, however, that a bully has a certain psychological component -- to a bully, the bullying isn't really about the intimidation or getting someone to do what you want. I mean, those are both components to bullying, but there's another level to it for bullies -- it's about control and getting a response out of someone. Often bullies leverage control to attain a specific kind of response out of someone through coercive (and sometimes public) means.

By a "response out of someone" I don't mean getting them to change their behavior (like leaving better tips or anything like that). I mean getting a specific emotional reaction from them. For example, some bullies aim to make people feel scared for their physical safety, others aim to make people cry or make them feel angry, etc. I run into a lot of people in my line of work (engineering) that bully to make people feel stupid or unintelligent. The only way to shut a bully down is not to respond to their attempts -- because once they get the response they want out of you (the emotional response, the visceral reaction) they will be back for more. That's what sets bullying apart from other intimidation tactics in society; a bully manipulates people for some kind of emotional abuse, for lack of a better description. A bully will not be satisfied with a simple change in behavior (like leaving better tips) because a bully doesn't actually care about the behavior, the bully NEEDS that emotional response out of you: the fear, the anger, the self-loathing, whatever it is. So the bully will continue to bully even when you have modified your actions.

At least, that's what I understand as bullying...

I mean, technically speaking, the legal system is a method of punishment and/or shaming to get people to conform to a specific kind of behavior. Does that qualify as bullying? Some people would argue that the law doesn't bully, but many people involved in the process (lawyers, police, etc.) use bullying tactics in their work.

And don't forget, while a lot of the things you mentioned seem silly and minor, plenty of social media is used to further awareness of causes like large companies abuse of power -- I would argue BP was shamed a lot for the oil spill in the Gulf, right? But I wouldn't call that bullying.

So I guess the question is, what qualifies as bullying on the internet? Does it count when I'm shaming a company like BP for its oil spill? If that's not bullying, then what about shaming a smaller company for its actions?

I'm not entirely disagreeing with you; I often find that when people harp on stuff like others's clothing and such it's just... lame. And boring. And kinda mean-spirited. But I'm not sure I would call that 'bullying' all the time. It's a trickier line in my mind.

Aug. 2nd, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
This is awesome! Thank you so much for responding. I plan on continuing the discussion -- but it will have to wait until I get some sleep.

I just had to let you know that I really appreciate you time and comments!
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