When I embarked on my reading challenge last year, a lot of my friends asked me, “How do you decide which books to read?” or “Could you recommend a good book related to ________ theme?”
If you’re like me, you rarely have the time or the will power to read more than a couple of paragraphs into a book review. With so much reading and writing to do, who has time to read someone else’s opinion of a book? Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes I like a sharp, smart review of an interesting book, but more than anything, I want a brief overview of the book’s overarching themes so I can quickly decide if it’s interesting enough to mark as “To-Read” on my Goodreads list. Let’s be real. There are so many books in the world and only so little time. I don’t have even a moment to spare on an uninteresting read.
Thus, I introduce the five minute book blurb, where I’ll be giving you just that: the essentials. Enjoy, and check back for more updates in the future.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
Although many of us remember a time before the Internet (myself included), it’s an invention that has become as commonplace and mundane as white bread. In fact, it’s something that we in the first world often take for granted. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed shatters that notion, reminding us that the Internet is a powerful, creepy, and dangerous world.
In So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson (known for The Psycopath Test and Men Who Stare at Goats) seeks to take on the world of Internet shaming and social media justice. Think of Cecil the Lion, and you’ll immediately know what I’m talking about. The stories of both the shamed and the shamers are eerie and surreal, and this book struck a discordant fear in me that is normally reserved for Stephen King novels and scary movies.
Throughout the book, Ronson examines the effects of shame on those who fall victim to the angry “pitchfork mobs” of Twitter goers, whether or not the shaming is truly just, who gets shamed and who manages to escape, and the haunting online reputations that make recovery from that shame nearly impossible. By the end, I was reconsidering posting to this blog or Facebook or Instagram or the Internet at large ever again. And I’m still contemplating why strangers can take and post pictures of others online without their consent (even if it means it may ruin their lives) while broadcasting your face on live television still requires a signed waiver.
While interesting and definitely worth reading, the book fell flat for me overall. Ronson assumes that, like him, you are entrenched in the weird world of incessant tweets and widely-broadcast Youtube confrontations. Likewise, he approaches interesting conclusions about who suffers most from these online shamings (spoiler alert: it’s women) and the deeply damaging effects of shame, but then shies away from the topic as if he has no opinion or the greater consequence of the shamings is less important than the creepy circumstances. In all, Ronson gets too caught up in the lure of the bizarre to truly make any worthwhile statements about what our tendency to mob-shame others via the Internet really means about us.
This is a great book to read if… you wonder who those Internet trolls really are and you’re in for a semi-dystopian time.
If you’re interested in themes like shame and vulnerability, I’d highly recommend… Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown. This book does the heavy lifting that Ronson’s book does not, and, without exaggeration, changed the way that I think about the big projects, moves, and relationships in life.
If you’re interested in a more traditional review… I’d recommend this one by Choire Sicha, who very smartly points out where and why Ronson’s book on the unruly mob of Tweeters goes wrong: “The actual problem is that none of the men running those bazillion-dollar Internet companies can think of one single thing to do about all the men who send women death threats.”
And with that, I’m on to the next book!