The Shame Game

Scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day I came across a post from one of the many mom groups I’m a part of.  It is a photo of an unsuspecting man urinating on the side of a building.  Accompanying the post is the rage-filled and self-righteous commentary on the act and the suspected character of the urinating man, as well as a picture of the incident and his car with license plate visible.

Is it kind of gross?  Yeah, it is.  Is it the kind of thing that warrants a Facebook post identifying the man, his car and license plate?  Not in my opinion.  Not that I would have liked to walk into a situation like that, or even view it from afar, but I think this social media shaming crosses the line.

If you feel so offended or unsafe by the actions of another, please, go to the police.  If you are willing to post the identity of a person on social media, it warrants a trip to the police station.  By posting online you risk tarnishing or ruining someone’s life based solely on your perspective of the situation.  I’m not saying, do nothing!  I’m saying the police have an evidence based way for dealing with individuals who are out of line.  I find it so very interesting that many of the shaming posts I’ve come across that accuse or capture any illegal behaviour, often the poster has not even contacted police to deal with the matter.  If you find something either so revolting or so dangerous that you need to risk someone’s reputation and privacy, then please, call the police.

You could also face legal action or threaten police investigations if the conduct captured could lead to criminal charges.  But most important to this sensitive girl is the chance that you could completely destroy the good reputation of someone if your shaming goes wrong. You can not take things back once they are uploaded to the world wide web. Once they’re out there, they’re out there.  Even if you post an apology, or the “culprit” explains the truth behind the situation, not everyone who read or shared the original post are going to find or have access to the apology or explanation.

And with the wrong timing, couldn’t we all be caught doing something that maybe someone else didn’t agree with?  I’ve cut people off driving, drank too much and danced like a fool, let my son pee on a tree, and lost my temper with my children in public.  If someone caught me, a generally good and kind person, at my worst or in an emergency situation and then posted it online, I would be devastated!

I realize there is a positive.  I appreciate the posts warning of violent incidents nearby or a  warning of a sexual predator moving into our community.  But I like these posts because they usually come from a respected source (ie. the police).

So please, think twice before you post an embarrassing picture of a man urinating on the side of a building.  You don’t know his medical situation and you can’t trust people to not harass and potentially destroy his life.  If necessary, still capture those pictures but instead of posting it to your social media outlets, take it to the police.

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4 thoughts on “The Shame Game

  1. Wow, loved reading this post. I totally agree with what you are saying. I feel like people forget that “talking” with their friends on social media is not like ranting about something you saw while sitting in a coffee shop with a buddy. Social media captures these thoughts forever and keeps them travelling around until it can easily get out of your control. However, I feel like a lot of individuals do treat their Twitter account and their Facebook pages as if they are simply having a chat with friendly neighbors. Like you said, everyone has had crazy moments or exhausted moments or moments of anger that we would rather not have the whole world know about, because, let’s face it, we are all human and imperfect! I really like your idea of contacting the police if someone did something so offensive that their personal information is being shared and their behavior is being called out online. I do my best to remember that whatever we share on social media is pretty much permanent, and that everyone out there is human and has bad days and deserves respect as a fellow living being. Thanks for the post!

  2. In this day and age people with cameras can take a picture of just about anything and post it online for the world to see whether they think it should be there or not. They don’t realize the consequences until afterwards, but then the damage is already done to those affected. We all may feel the need to shame someone based on our own dislikes, but it is wise to let the authorities handle the situation and take care of the incident in a precise manner to avoid future incidents.

  3. Having the ability to share pictures immediately is great but it also has repercussions on people, families and communities. There is chance that not all individuals in society will employ common sense or critical thinking before they post pictures. I feel that the police should be given the information or images for wrongful doing so that potential legal investigations would not be compromised. I agree that the severity of the action should be a concern before one posts images online. Perhaps (for some), the pictures serve as immediate satisfaction for attention seeking and venting anger. In that case an individual’s reputation should always be thought about critically posting shaming incidents.

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