In the wake of Jon Ronson's new book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed, more and more people have been thinking about the dark side of social media: the mob.
At its best, the mob-effect can push for important changes, challenge the way we think, put pressure on organizations and figures, etc. As we've all too often seen however, even this kind of mob is more often than not superficial, quickly forgetting its activism when a new source of outrage emerges.
It's also, quite frankly, terrifying at times - one thinks of the effect of #gamergate on many people's lives. The mob combines the feeling of 'unrealness' that comes from publishing online with real-life significant effects on people, including death and rape threats, loss of jobs, and more... The relative anonymity of twitter, or rather, the ease with which people can create fake accounts, encourages people to publish threats I doubt they'd dare enunciate face to face.
I love twitter, I do, but its dark side, the one that takes pleasure in harassing and bullying users, is not one that I endorse.
We live in a strange and unprecedented world: Rather than give people a scarlet letter when they do something we don’t agree with, the social media mob comes after them and, in some cases, ruins their lives. Earlier this year, Justine Sacco broke her silence after she lost her job and went into hiding. For more than a year. She is the woman who tweeted some unfortunate racist things, including, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” After she tweeted that gem, she got on an 11-hour flight that didn’t have an Internet connection and went to sleep. The social media mob went nuts. Her tweet went viral and the hashtag, #HasJustineLandedYet, trended globally while people gleefully waited to see what would happen.