Shame storm. Or 1984’s two minutes hate. Or just another day in social media.

We are seeing an increasing number of shame storms in social media. The goal of a shame storm is to severely rebuke and embarrass someone who stepped out of line.

Doesn’t matter if the person loses a job and is emotionally destroyed as a result. Doesn’t matter if the storm is completely out of proportion to the offense. As long as the instigator and following mob have a good time, they don’t care.

I discussed this issue earlier: Be careful on the ‘net. It is cruel and unforgiving. Draw wrong attention and you get dissected, then shamed.

Here are two more articles on shame storming.

4/20 – About Last Night – The shame sharksTerry Teachout suggests that yes, he does self-censor what he says, or what is called crimestop in the novel 1984.

That is the ability to intuitively stop yourself before you even think something that will be considered unacceptable. The goal in the totalitarian world of 1984 is to self-censor without even realizing you are doing so.

Why does he crimestop himself?

Because we are today, right now, living in that horrid world described in 1984. Get caught expressing a sufficiently unacceptable thought and the flashmobs will gather in the social media world to shred you. Just like the 2 Minutes Hate in the novel.

He has some ideas on how to be careful on-line.

One bit of advice he gave a too-open performer a long time ago –

Journalists are not your friends

Likewise, the social media world is not your friend. Always remember there are people out there who would enjoy destroying you for their own momentary pleasure. As he explains, the social media world if useful and fun

…but never forget that the sharks of cyberspace lie in wait to bite your hand off. They don’t care about you. … What they want, ever and always, is power, and they’ll happily eat you in order to get more of it. If you’re not prepared to bite back—hard—then stay out of the deep end.

A hint for the wise – if you want to stand ready to bite back really hard, you might think about stocking up a few terabytes of pixels and be ready to use them.

 4/17 – Megan McArdle – Become a Shame-StormMs. McArdle points out that in a social group, shaming has value. It can enforce community standards. When coupled with personal knowledge of a person to interpret context and combined with forgiveness leading to restoration, it is helpful.

What is left when we strip off the personal contact, all shred of context, and remove the possibility of restoration? Merely destruction for the fun of it.

Article suggests that eventually the shame-storming we see running wild may lose its power. When the outrage-of-the-week becomes the outrage-of-late-morning, the crowds may have no hate left for the right-after-lunch outrage. You just can’t do half a dozen rages a day.

By the way, the bible provides superb guidance on how to deal with people who are out of line and how to restore them. Check out Matthew chapter 18. The goal is restoration, not destruction. Shame should be the last tool used when someone needs correction, not the first.

No one has enough spare energy to do multiple 2 Minutes Hate every day of the week. Not even Orwell thought that would work.

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