Published: March 31, 2015
Source: Personal Copy (June Book Club Selection)
You might enjoy this book if you like: Books about the effect of social media, investigative journalism, spending too much time on Twitter
For the past three years, Jon Ronson has traveled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people like us, people who, say, made a joke on social media that came out badly or made a mistake at work. Once the transgression is revealed, collective outrage circles with the force of a hurricane and the next thing they know, they're being torn apart by an angry mob, jeered at, demonized, sometimes even fired from their job.
A great renaissance of public shaming is sweeping our land. Justice has been democratized. The silent majority are getting a voice, but what are we doing with our voice? We are mercilessly finding people's faults. We are defining the boundaries of normality by ruining the lives of those outside it. We are using shame as a form of social control.
Sometimes the hardest books to review are the books that are, in your mind, just fine. That's how I felt about this one. It wasn't bad, but it certainly didn't rock my world. It was just....fine. I will admit that part of my ambivalence might have been that I went into it with high expectations, but I don't think taking my expectations out of the equation would have made this a truly successful book for me.
As the title indicates, Jon Ronson delves into the phenomenon of modern public shaming. We aren't talking about celebrities acting like celebrities (at least not for the most part), but "normal" people whose lives were upended due to a lapse in social media (usually) judgment. I'll be honest, other than author Jonah Lerner, I hadn't heard of any of them. Still their stories were interesting...
And that is pretty much where this book went. There were a lot of interesting stories and Ronson sometimes made connections between stories and sometimes he didn't. But he also didn't go anywhere with the stories. I never felt like he came to any conclusions or enlightened me in some way so that I would feel like this book left any kind of impact.
Don't get me wrong...it was entertaining and I did enjoy Ronson's writing style. It is just that I'm not sure what he was trying to accomplish and, if he was trying to accomplish something, he failed on that count. In other words, I found this book to be ultimately dissatisfying.
I might still recommend this book, but it would depend on what the prospective reader is looking for. If you are looking for something along the lines of a "study" of social media and shaming, this book would fit the bill. However, if you are looking for something that will make an impact, I would suggest something else.
I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.