by Jack Henry
A blog about social media.
Parody, lampoon, sendup and ‘Yo momma so fat’ routines are the fabric of many stand-up comics brave enough to face an audience. When it comes to social media whereby a creator hides behind unanimity, a joke can take the mickey in a malevolent mousey way. And it’s not restricted to individuals. Social media sites create memes deriding other social media. Which begs the question, is social media the new age pillory post?
Exposure of the Shameful Kind
In the US a man who called a twenty-one-year-old a ‘porch monkey’ and the mother of disabled kids a ‘monkey momma’ was sentenced to humiliation. The Ohio man was ordered by a judge to sit for five hours at a busy intersection with a large sign declaring he was a bully. Passing motorists honked their horns with many yelling insults through the car window at him.
The sentence is an example of a long tradition of public shaming.
In Medieval times a parishioner late for church in the Low Countries was made to wear a giant rosary called ‘the stones of shame’.
After WWII, women in France who liaised with invading Nazi troops had their heads shaved and made to walk the streets to confront public vilification.
The quintessential image of ridicule by the mob is that of the pillory. A heavy wooden yolk with holes for the head and hands were mostly placed outside a church and other public places. Offenders were locked into the device and left to cope with abuse from the public.
People Don’t Mean to be Vicious—They Just Are
Research reveals people are nasty to each other because treating others in a low-down way makes them feel good.
Why feel good about being rotten? It turns out humans need to feel special about themselves. They drift into groups with common interests. Called the Herd or Gang Mentality, or more often a bunch of yobs, individuals adopting attitudes and behaviours to fit in with others. Mob behaviour was studied by Sigmund Freud and Wilfred Trotter.
An example of mob behaviour was tested in the following observation. Two hundred volunteers took part in an experiment at Leeds University. Told to walk anywhere that took their fancy, they were free to do as they pleased. One small group had instructions on a definite path to take. The result saw five percent of individuals who appeared to know where they were going with a degree of confidence being followed by the other ninety-five percent. The dude who waves a flag and declares he or she has a plan will attract the rest who more-or-less don’t have a clue.
Such behaviour can be seen almost every day of the week. It goes some way in explaining why investors in the stock markets become either bullish or cringing creatures creating surges of fear or confidence.
A Tourist in the Global Village Surfing the Information Super Highway
The idea behind social media was to keep people connected across the globe and share moments and images of their lives. It declared to anyone who bothers to notice that they have a life, and look, ain’t it a good one. Digital forums offered an important role in depicting a personalised view of environmental calamities or other casualties of aggression. It was a way of sharing misfortune with those not affected as if to say, you may be all right but look at the crap we’re dealing with.
For most users of social media opened up the chance reunion of long-lost friends to upload videos of their pet rabbit poking its head out behind a sofa cushion.
That Toothy Selfie Hides the Knife
There are many ways to intimidate others. Physical threats are the most obvious. Verbal jibes and insults can be as damaging to the ego. Covert or passive aggression is a different beast.
Covert bullying is aptly suited to social media. The pointed jokes, negative gossip, sarcastic remarks, mimicking and ridiculing physical features such as skin blemishes are varying means to mock others.
The only thing changed from days of yore is a heavy yolk and a rotten cabbage.