Playing the Shame Game

So we're going to ignore the fact that I've been absent for an entire week as I've been beleaguered by a cold and I quite frankly could not be bothered. In fact, I'm still quite sneezy and sniffly but I MUST PRESS ON!

I'm seeing the author Jon Ronson speak tonight at U of T and as I'm a bit of a n00b (do people still say n00b?) to his work, I figured I would take the weekend to go on a Jon Ronson binge.

I read The Psychopath Test, watched Frank, and listened to Ronson on NPR's podcast Bullseye and Marc Maron's WTF

(Seriously, why did I not delve into this world sooner???? Shame on me, *rimshot*... see what I did there?)

Of course, I knew of Jon Ronson, having worked in a book store and having seen his many titles all over the store, heralded as must-reads and bestsellers. But I didn't really want to read about psychopaths (as an anxiety sufferer, this honestly seemed like a scary thing to do), I'd heard enough about extremists in the news, and I didn't really want to know why men were staring at goats.

But then Ronson's latest book was released, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. And something inside of me clicked.

I'm very fortunate to have never been apart of any online targeting, but I'm definitely not alone in having been on the bad end of a bully stick in elementary and high school. However, the most shame I've ever been subjected to has always come from one person.

Me.

Duh. If you've read anything on this site in the past, this statement is a total given.

Usually my shame comes from three different places: not doing enough with my life, not eating as well as I could, and not exercising. These aren't atypical for many people, I would assume, but as self-aware as I am, I just can't seem to shake that feeling of negativity and hurt that I throw at myself on a relatively constant basis.

Of course, I don't only shame myself. I shame others too. It's so easy to, especially when you don't even have to say it out loud. I can feel my superiority complex bouncing around, tsking and pfting at people who DON'T KNOW THAT ONE THING THAT I KNOW AND HOW DO THEY NOT KNOW THAT???? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM??????

Over the years, I've tried to get this impulse in check. It doesn't win you any friends and that rush of power only lasts so long. 

But what of the people who take their shaming to the next level? What of those who make their shaming public? And what happens to the people they are shaming?

It's easier than ever to get into the shame game. Posting anonymously on YouTube videos, Twitter feeds and Instagram pix has become the new normal. From commenting on someone's weight, all the way up to calling people out as racists, homophobes and misogynists. Because, what doesn't feel better than knowing that you're at least better than that stupid idiot who made that dumb off-hand comment? And how great is it that no one need know who you actually are, so you can continue to berate and bully?

Of course, nothing that I'm saying is new. We're all aware of this kind of shaming and how detrimental it can be to both shamer and shamee. I, for one, cannot wait to find out what Ronson has to say about the shaming process and what it's doing to each and every one of us.

Ronson's talk is titled "Shaming as a Form of Social Control: What Is It Doing to the Shamee – and to All of Us?" and he will be speaking tonight at the Rotman School of Management at 6:00pm tonight. Follow him at @jonronson on Twitter and READ ALL HIS BOOKS!

Later days!