Unless you don’t use social media, you have seen the many ‘shaming’ memes and pictures across all social platforms. These are the posts that shame someone doing something considered wrong or someone who has certain unacceptable attributes. Sometimes the shaming is funny and largely innocent, such as when pet owners shame their naughty dogs with signs that say things like, ‘I poo on the carpet when mom’s at work.’ In other instances, online shaming is anonymous and nasty and it can be traumatic for the victim. Shame is an insidious emotion and one not to be taken lightly.
Shame and Today’s Internet Culture
Shame is the ultimate feel-bad emotion. And it’s very personal. When you feel shame, it’s because you see something in yourself that is unworthy. Whether the shame is triggered by someone else’s reaction to you or your own internal compass, your shame points out a failing you see in yourself. When you do something that makes you feel bad or that hurts someone, you might feel guilty. In time this passes, especially if you try to right the wrong. Shame is much worse and leads most people to withdraw and close off rather than to make amends. It goes deeper than guilt and deeper than any one instance or action. With shame being such a nasty and insidious emotion, why do we feel the need to inspire it in others? Why do we shame people when it can be so devastating? In our Internet-driven world, when anonymity is so easy, many people feel the need to try to make others feel worse, and the consequences are awful for mental health. In some situations, the victim could even be described as being traumatized. Being shamed publicly is truly traumatic and is a form of bullying and abuse.
Destroying Young Girls with Slut Shaming
Anyone could become the subject of shaming online, but girls and women are too often the targets. Teen girls are being devastated by slut shaming. Their peers post pictures of them in some type of sexually compromising situation and call them out for being slutty. Sometimes it is no more than a picture of a girl in an outfit that the poster considers offensive. With information traveling to thousands of people in minutes, these vulnerable young girls are exposed and victimized.
Wrecking Self-Esteem with Body Shaming
Another modern form of shaming also tends to target women: body shaming. Online attacks on women for being overweight, or for wearing an outfit deemed unworthy of a particular body type, are common. A newer trend is thin shaming, in which women who are considered too thin are called out. As with slut shaming, this type of bullying can be devastating to the victim and a major blow to self-esteem and self-worth. Many shamers comment anonymously and are vicious.
Punishing Children with Shame
Parents even get in on the act with public, online acts of shame as a form of punishment for their children. A number of pictures have popped up online of shame-faced kids standing in a public place, holding a sign that elaborates their wrong-doings. Are these parents using creative ways to get their kids to see what they did as wrong? Or are they traumatizing and bullying their own children? Public humiliation is not the best discipline for a child. Modern Internet shaming comes in a number of forms and is committed by nearly everyone. Moms shame other moms for their choices. Environmentalists shame people who litter. Dog owners shame their pets. The list could go on and on. Instead of shaming other people, we should be lifting them up. Even when someone has behaved in a shameful way, shouldn’t we try to help them see a better way rather than making them feel even worse?