Harmful effects of internet shaming


Most teens do not know a world without social media, a world where more people meet for the first time through a screen then face to face. In light of this social media growth, people spend hours a day scrolling through the various sites and apps making these platforms very useful for spreading news like a wild fire across the globe. While the application is very practical and extremely effective, in the wrong hands, it can also be very dangerous.

A growing trend since the birth of Twitter in 2006 has been internet shaming. This is a sort of virtual justice system where ordinary citizens become internet vigilantes through exposing people’s mistakes and posting about them. The main problem: this justice system does not include a defense, a hearing or a trial, only a sentencing, often one for life.

Imagine one time you really screwed up, and no one or only few people know about. Now take that same screw up and have someone post it. Now tens of thousands to millions know, and only know you for what you did. Now you are afraid to show your face, you can’t get a job, you lose friends and are debating on moving and changing your name. These instances are extreme examples, but are not as rare as you think. So the question that remains, do people believe in second chances?

While the trend tends to stick to the younger social media users, it is certainly not restricted to the older generation getting into it. Take Victor Paul Alvarez as an example. The Boston based reporter broke news story, that contained insensitive joke about John Boehner. Preceding the publication of Alvarez’s story the virtual social media mob began rioting. Despite an apology, Alvarez was terminated. Months later he still looks for work. And what about Adam Mark Smith? The guy who was rude to a Chick-Fil-A worker on YouTube, which resulted in him having to sell his house and move away. And how could anyone forget Justine Sacco, the reporter who made a partially racist tweet right before getting on a plane for Africa only to land, turn on her phone and see her life now in shards.

Google any of these names and sadly their internet shaming will be the first thing to pop up. This forces us to ask the question does the punishment of ruining some one’s life really fit the crime? Now I’m not saying people don’t deserve to know they have made a mistake, I just saying it don’t have to be in front of the world so that person has a chance to change their actions instead of ruining their life. For more information on the topic read Todd Leopold’s The Price of Shaming in The Internet Age published by CNN.

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