On the other
side of the spectrum, we have a practice that is not used for taboo-breaking
and shocking people, but rather for regulating this culture and behaviour of
offensiveness; online shaming. Shaming is primarily defined as “A painful
feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or
foolish behaviour” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2014.). The historical context of
shaming in public life spans back centuries with its use being to deter and
punish unlawful behaviour. Similarly, nowadays we see the emergence of online
shaming practices as a means of punishment and deterrence for behaviours that
contradict our social norms. Whereas in the past people would be held in the
pillories (the stocks), publicly flogged or in the Victorian school system wear
the dunce hat, now the perpetrators of illicit behaviours are publicly
identified and exposed to the world via the internet. Hou et al. (2017)
declared the internet as a new battlefield to demand punishment for people who
are seen to have defied social norms. Social norms are rules of behaviour and
customs that regulate the way people act and interact with each other. They are
embedded within every facet of social life and they dictate our perceptions and
normative behaviours. Nowadays, there appears to be a societal obligation to
shame those who defy these taboos or normative behaviours (Elster, 2009). This
may be in some part down to people and their substantial history of public
humiliation and shaming of transgressors of rules; social or civil. In this
digital age where technology plays an integral role in the lives of much of the
population, people interact more and more via online means. This has led to
increasing number of our social interactions being played out online and
through various forms of social media, where people can express almost any
opinion in any way they see fit. Solove (2007) states that today shaming helps
maintain civility and a form of manners in a time where discourtesy and
incivility are prevalent online.

The process by which shaming occurs is quite
straightforward. Firstly, somebody observes or stumbles upon an action or
behaviour that is taboo. The person then captures proof of this behaviour (such
as a picture, screenshot, video, recording) and publishes it onto an online
social media forum for public consumption such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit,
4chan etc. The material uploaded is usually something that is deemed by the
uploader to have contravened socially acceptable behaviours and thus has broken
taboo. For example, recently footage was uploaded from the London Underground
trains of two men harassing a gay man into apologising for his sexuality. The
footage circulated online much to the disgust of many online users who deplored
and vilified the behaviour of the two assailants. Mainstream media outlets like
the BBC also interacted with the story by publishing it on the 8 o’clock news
and online. The police then picked up on the story and searched for the two men
which have led to their arrests. Here we see that online shaming had real-life
repercussions for those who were the subjects of this online shaming. The
consequence of online shaming is that those who are deemed to have violated our
social norms face a public backlash and thus are punished and forced to
reconsider their behaviour. So, it seems that the dynamic of online shaming is
a behaviour that seeks to regulate the behaviour of others. DeVries (2015)
discovered a generally agreeable public consensus relating to the process of
online shaming. She found that the public believed online shaming was a
mechanism by which one could expose and critique socially unacceptable
behaviours. People also seemed to think that it was their obligation to
document and share the footage of bad behaviours, as it showed people what they
were doing wrong but also held them accountable for their actions (De Vries,
2015.). These views have developed in keeping with the modern shift in
perspectives relating to the blurred lines between the public and private
sphere, which has occurred with the new pervasive technologies with
ever-expanding social capacities

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