Public Shaming- The Internet and Cancel Culture

D. T. Max’s article, The Public Shaming Pandemic, talks on multiple stories ranging from Covid-19 victims to racist actions and our society using the internet to publicly shame others for their actions and circumstances. Shaming is not a new idea, as it has long been an accepted moral behavioral correction tool. Shaming is inherently not meant to be truly harmful, but instead is meant to correct negative moral behavior. Additionally, care ethics tell us how we should act in decision making and morality by using a relational approach to ethics and differs from many other approaches because of its consideration of emotions. It relies heavily on relationships among people, particularly individual relationships. Therefore, shaming is most effective when it comes from a close individual relationship, such as a parent or another individual that is respected.

The internet is a very powerful tool that has allowed for connections among people across the world at a much larger scale than was ever possible before. This is great for the spreading of information until it isn’t. It is just as easy for false information to be spread as it is for information that is reliable, and shocking hearsay tends to spread the fastest. Additionally, there is a certain amount of desensitization that comes with interacting behind a computer screen. It doesn’t feel as if a relationship is being formed- it is just you and your screen.

“Cancel culture”, which has become very popular on social media, is one recent way shaming has evolved to fit into our increasingly online society. Unfortunately, this form of shaming is much more permanent and detrimental overall. What was once meant to be a moral behavioral corrector has now become a platform for widespread rejection of a person often based off a single action. In my opinion, cancel culture is not really an effective method of shaming. As it is not a personal relationship, many do not care what random Facebook or Tiktok users are saying about them. Additionally, while often the shaming is warranted, if an individual is “cancelled”, does the reprimand they receive really do anything for them if they as an individual are no longer accepted by society?

5 thoughts on “Public Shaming- The Internet and Cancel Culture

  1. Logan D'Amore

    Cassie does a great job connecting social media shaming to care ethics. Specifically, she defines shaming as not being inherently harmful, but is meant to correct negative moral behavior. In order for shaming to excel and be effective, it most come from a close personal relationship due to decision making having a direct correlation to emotion. I found this very interesting as it was not on my mind during the reading as I was thinking more towards the numbers of those doing the shaming rather then the actually “quality” of the shaming being done. Then, Cassie puts on emphases on the relationships being formed on the internet are not exactly relationships at all. This can be argued heavily, but I actually agree with Cassie. Internet relationships are nothing on an emotional care ethics scale compared to those in person and/or those with the people closest to you. Lastly, she highlights the detriments on cancel culture on social media. Cassie illustrates its non-effectiveness and questions if those actually cancelled are reprimanded in any possible way. In my opinion, I do not believe there are any physical reprimands when it comes to cancel culture. It is highly precedented on the person who is being cancelled’s personal thoughts. He or she may think she is no longer accepted in all of society, however most users on social media would not fully “banish” them if seen in person. As Cassie stated in her post, “it is just you and your screen”.

  2. J. Raymond

    In their post, Cassie Srb does an excellent job summarizing D.T. Max’s article, “The Public Shaming Pandemic”. Srb highlights the historical purpose of public shaming and how it has evolved with the advent of the internet. Moreover, they discuss the ineffectiveness of Cancel Culture. While Srb makes the general claim that Cancel Culture is more permanent and detrimental than traditional public shaming, I believe this is only the case for the random individual who the internet decides to target. Broadly, the trend seems to be that we cancel the random Karen not wearing a mask to get groceries, but the celebrities that normalize and promote dangerous behavior seem to be immune. For instance, Kendall Jenner threw a huge mask-less Halloween party. While I’m sure many people have tried to cancel her, I just don’t think it will stick- she’ll eventually issue an apology and continue enjoying her life. This makes Cancel Culture both ineffective at reprimanding the most influential in our society while also disproportionately damaging the reputation of the average citizen. It seems to me that we need to find a middle ground in our society; we need to shift our intolerance of dangerous behavior onto those in the public sphere. Perhaps, by asking our celebrities to set a good example, we can start to move away from things like the politicization of masks.

  3. Katherine Gao

    In her analysis of public shaming during COVID, Cassie acknowledges that shaming in small doses and by the right people can behave as an effective mechanism for behavioral correction. However, she points out that modern day “cancel culture” on social media fits neither of these two criteria. Individuals are denounced on a large scale, and sometimes, they are denounced on the basis of misinformation or misconstrued information. Additionally, Cassie mentions that it is easier for people to make harsh and unfiltered comments online since there is no personal relationship. Under these circumstances, shaming no longer functions as a tool for correction but is merely an outlet for anger and harassment. This widespread harassment not only has detrimental effects on the lives of the individuals who are attacked, but when the internet goes so far as to “cancel” these individuals for a single action, they are never given the chance to learn from their mistakes. While it is necessary to discourage certain behavior during this pandemic in order for society to get back on its feet, a line needs to be drawn between condemning a general societal behavior and crippling the life and character of a single individual who is learning to navigate these unusual circumstances just like the rest of us. With social media being such a huge part of our daily lives, perhaps the most practical questions to ask to achieve this balance regard how to improve online interactions. Are there ways to reduce the spread of misinformation or encourage more empathetic online interactions? What kinds of restrictions should there be concerning individual privacy?

  4. Leah Doubert

    Cassie does a great job discussing the impact of public shaming through the lens of care ethics. I thought the point she brought up about the nature of a relationship in regards to shaming and its effectiveness was very interesting. I completely agree that shaming is not as effective online, because it’s typically coming from strangers, as when it’s coming from a friend or family member who is genuinely trying to inform the other person.

    I also liked Cassie’s point about social media being used to spread false information: this was something I thought about after reading Max’s article, as well. While it’s incredible that social media platforms have given so many people a voice and a way to express themselves and their opinions, it’s also extremely dangerous that these platforms have such a strong influence over others, and most of the time, the information being spread on these platforms is not fact-checked. This can lead to people being shamed or “cancelled” for actions they didn’t even commit.

    How can we use social media platforms for good? Is there any way to ensure the information being presented on these sites is correct in order to shelter people from wrongful accusations and protect their right to privacy, or is any restriction on what people can and can’t post impeding on their freedom of speech?

  5. Muhammad Mukarram

    I enjoyed this entry by Cassie because it explored an aspect of the article that I only touched on when writing my post. That aspect is how close to home some online shaming is. It’s a proven fact that shaming and disrespect hurt more when it comes from those closest to us, and those dishing out the negativity also know this. The thing about online is that “followers” are so often entrenched in the lives of the person their following, that they feel like they know the person personally! This creates a false sense of entitlement to an opinion, opinions that don’t only care about what they are adding to the pot, and not what the person being criticized is dealing with. All in all, this is the sad reality that overcame Dr. Rokita. People were immediately coming to attack him without pausing to understand him as their fellow human.
    Moreover, I liked the last few questions posed by Cassie regarding the outcome of being canceled. The reality is that canceling someone doesn’t help them grow as an individual. It puts them in an isolated box and due to the power of social media, even those closest to a newly canceled person may slowly fade out of their lives due to fear of being canceled by association. Being canceled by association is a phenomenon that is hyper-prevalent on the internet and overall, it just adds to the division and feuds that the internet fuels.


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