Oh, public shaming. Everyone who is on the internet has at least seen it happening to someone and sadly, some reading this may have even been a shamed. It's becoming so prevalent that we say things like "I'm grabbing the popcorn" when we know someone's comments section or Twitter is going to explode.
I was pretty fascinated with this book and at one point in the beginning, ran through a mental list of everyone in my life who was about to be gifted it for Christmas. I quickly realized that what I found sickly intriguing, the train wreck(s) that was the heart of the book, the stories of those publically shamed, was likely old news to about everyone I know.
Lindsey Stone and Justine Sacco certainly, maybe even those developer guys and Jonah Lehrer too. My husband certainly knew of them while I recounted the horror that was their ordeal by reading entire passages out loud.
In truth, I have a very small threshold for such things in real time. When Harambe happened it was during a FB stint for me, where I was actively on FB. I was trapped in the madness, sucked into reading post after post and comment after comment on that mess. I cried all night when the worst of it was happening. I stared at the ceiling in the dark while my children and husband were sleeping and sobbed because people are that cruel. And while I was busy feeling for all involved, I was simultaneously terrified that something like that could happen to me. All of it, from my wandering son falling into peril to the public outcry for my death as a result.
Reading about things that had happened in the past was far easier than coping with the helplessness of the present. I feel bad even saying that because as far as Ronson's account is concerned, it's not like everyone's story that he detailed had a happy ending - so it's not like I can feel good about where they are now, it just helped my own selfish anxieties.
But, to the writing.
This is my first Jon Ronson book, and I doubt it will be my last. He's a good writer who is engaging and smartly funny. I found it largely successful, especially given the endeavor itself. A book about shaming? How do you even go about that? Here's what it's not. It's not a book about who is shamed (he allows the reader to draw some clear conclusions there), it's not a book of how to overcome a public shaming (though he attempts to find an answer to that), and it's not a book about how to stop future shaming (though he uncovers some societal truths, perhaps).
Basically it's a book about how it can happen to anyone, anywhere because people are fickle and often times terrible, even when they're trying to be good. Even when they feel like they're meting out justice, passionately defending their compatriot (or agenda, for lack of better word at the moment), or righting a wrong. The strength of this book is the question it forces you to ask about your own actions and what was overwhelmingly stated is that we do not understand the consequences or care to understand the consequences - and in most cases - care to understand the entire story. How careless we are with people's lives.
Of course, on flip, how careless people are with their own lives. *Goes to check privacy settings one more time*