The Sunday Leader

Google before You Tweet

by Tia Goonaratna

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson is an interesting take on the world and its need share opinions on social media.  Jon Ronson has travelled the world meeting recipients of high profiled public shame. People such as us who say made a ‘distasteful’ joke online, or had an embarrassing picture or even just made a mistake and it was spread all over social media. Sometimes these ‘mistakes’ or jokes can be taken a bit far and people from all over the world would come together to attack you… online.

While these internet sensations are getting into the public eye, the minority who have a voice but does not have a place are getting the opportunity to unleash it. How do we use this though? We use it to judge. We go above and beyond to ruin someone else’s life.


In this book, Ronson takes on the effects of these actions and dissect how badly it reflects on our day to day lives.

Here is the example – the Awful Example – of Justine Sacco. Here is what public shame and utter humiliation does. She was a New York PR employee of some American conglomerate called IAC, which I never heard of. On 20 December 2013 she was off on holiday to South Africa. She used Twitter and had around 30 followers. She was at Heathrow airport waiting for the plane to Cape Town and tweeted

Cucumber sandwiches – bad teeth. Back in London!

That was the level – unfunny mild insults about British people. Hmph! But then :

Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!

Jon Ronson says “she chuckled to herself, pressed SEND and wandered around the airport for half an hour, sporadically checking Twitter. ‘I got nothing,’ she told me. ‘No replies.’

Then she went off on her 11 hour flight and couldn’t access Twitter. While she was in the plane her tweet exploded. Here’s how much it exploded: in October 2013 she was googled 30 times. In November 2013 she was googled 30 times. Between 20 and 31 December 2013 she was googled 1,220,000 times. This is how she was responded to:

Her level of racist ignorance belongs on Fox news.

From IAC, her employers: This is an outrageous, offensive comment. Employee in question is currently unreachable.

Fascinated by the Justine Sacco train wreck. It’s global and apparently she’s still on the plane.

All I want for Christmas is to see Justine Sacco’s face when her plane lands and she checks her inbox.

This is the harsh truth today. You are responsible for the words you put out on social media. No longer can you make a joke in public without getting  a backlash. Regardless of the fact that you have 30 followers, your tweet will see the light of day. Moving on to a different scenario. If someone offers an opinion such as ‘I don’t think Justin Bieber is all that,’ it’s met with angry teenage girls threatening to hunt you down. We’ve forgotten that people are entitled to their opinion. Definitely not at the cost of others, but we are allowed to *not* like something or a person.

So you can say whatever you want in person, but don’t put it on the internet. You will be eaten alive.


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