What happened to the dream of online democracy asks Jon Ronson in his new book which tackles the spectre of “social media shaming”by Jonathan Derbyshire / March 20, 2015 / Leave a comment
Reviewing Jon Ronson’s new book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” this week, India Knight described it as “terrifying”. She was right. It’s a highly unsettling exploration of what Ronson calls “social media shaming”—the kind of thing that ended up destroying the career of the American PR executive Justine Sacco, after a joke she tweeted as she was getting on a flight to South Africa went wrong.
In the book, Sacco tells Ronson that she was trying to draw attention to the “dire situation that… exists in post-apartheid South Africa”. Twitter, however, didn’t get the joke, and when she landed in Cape Town, Sacco discovered that her tweet was trending worldwide—she also discovered just what an effective mechanism Twitter is for processing opprobrium and rage. “Over the years,” Ronson writes, “I’ve sat across tables from a lot of people whose lives have been destroyed… Justine Sacco felt like the first person I had ever interviewed who had been destroyed by us.”