Shame Cannot Survive Empathy

Over the years I have written many posts about the negative impact of online public shaming and cyber-bullying, as well as the major downsides to the global democratization and sharing of content. I’ve also read countless books (most recently Jon Ronson’s “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed“) and discussed this topic extensively with others. Nothing I’ve come across has ever packaged and actioned this important topic quite so well as this TED talk I just watched by Monica Lewinsky (embedded below).

She was, as she rightly points out, patient zero of modern online public shaming. It was 1998, the year headline news started to be consumed online by the masses. The era before the terms “social media” or “web 2.0” were ever used. I don’t even need to remind anyone of what she became famous for, as to this day a simple Google search will do.

However, as even her digital footprint shows, there really is hope. Slowly but surely Monica Lewinsky is  taking back control of the narrative of her life,  which for two decades now has been written by others. She is speaking out about the unfathomable technology augmented public shaming she went through, that few humans had ever experienced on a global instantaneous scale before.

Fast forward to 2015 and sadly, things have only gotten worse.

Monica’s call to action however did resonate with me as there are baby steps we can take to counter-act this pervasive trend:

  1. Stop clicking or engaging in any way with shaming content
  2. If you feel empathy, post a supportive message. Ignore the trolls that will follow.

And as shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown points out (and of course many religious leaders and philosophers before her): “Shame cannot survive empathy”. If the victim knows that at least one other person can genuinely understand how difficult it must be for them, that can be all that is needed to save a life. Please watch this very important 18 minute talk.

Social Media Vigilantism – Have We Gone Too Far?

Over the course of the last few weeks there has been significant discussion about the very disturbing, derogatory and blatantly sexist #FHRITP trend. Let me point out from the get-go that I personally believe there is nothing about this trend that is excusable. It is wrong, period. I would however, like to discuss a hidden story here within the larger issue of sexual harassment.

Last Thursday, in the course of reading about the Hydro One employee being fired from his $100K+ job for participating in this sad trend, I tweeted about how this was yet another example of the need for education on personal digital footprints (something I have written extensively on). A few people took offense to my tweet in that they thought it was the wrong lesson and that “to not sexually harass women” should be the only conversation here.  I clarified my position, realizing that it was being misinterpreted and removed the original tweet to avoid any further confusion. I have rarely done this, but in this case I felt it was necessary given another rising trend occurring these days, social media vigilantism,  which I will discuss in a moment. Coincidentally, CBC actually released a documentary on Social Media Shaming as this event was unfolding (video screenshot at the top of this post). Continue reading