#1758. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. (2015). Ronson, Jon, New York: Penguin Random House, 318 pp. $21.00. ISBN: 978-1-59463-401-7

Jarrod Ennis Patterson, Department of English & Foreign Languages, Alabama A&M University, [email protected].


Imagine going online and discovering that someone in the great world-wide web is using your name and likeness to create posts that are misrepresentations of who you are or what you advocate. What do you do? Who do you contact? How do you get some meaningful resolution of this confusing and frustrating situation?

This is the circumstance that Jon Ronson finds himself one day on Twitter. After investigating the matter, Ronson discovers that a researcher had employed the use of an infomorph (or most commonly known in tech circles as a spambot). He contacts the individual and travels to meet him face-to-face to convince him to stop tweeting using his name and likeness. When they do meet, the man initially refuses and the discussion takes a very confrontational turn. No amount of reason could convince the accused researcher to stop what he was doing. He passionately argues that he has a right to use Ronson’s name and likeness. To his credit, Ronson records the interview and publishes it on social media, via the video- sharing platform provided by YouTube. Hundreds of viewers’ comments in support of Ronson and against the “clone” proved too much and the account was closed.

This experience begins Ronson’s journey to explore the concept of shame and how it has been used over the centuries to control the social behavior of humans. He travels around the country, meeting with and interviewing individuals who have been the recipients of public shaming, deservingly or undeservingly. What makes this book unique is the fact that shame or shaming has become increasingly impactful due to the Internet age. Shaming has been around since the beginning of mankind. But today, technology and the Internet has brought things to the attention of the general public that in preceding generations would have been done and even resolved with only a small number of individuals The Internet now shines a glaring light on every single decision, via keystroke, that individuals make. Ronson does a masterful job of retelling all of his experiences with selected individuals who had been publicly shamed and, in some cases, were being publicly shamed at the time of their interviews.

Studies continue to confirm the strong impact that academic advising has on the retention of students. If academic advisors are going to be impactful in their advising practices, it is incumbent upon them to develop strong relationships with their academic advisees. The most basic foundation of these relationships is trust. Yarbrough (2002) and Lucas and Murry (2002) concur that relationships between academic advisors and academic advisees have the greatest impact attitude, success, and [most importantly] retention. Academic advisors are not going to be able to foster good will and trust with their academic advisees by using shame, whether public or private. In the advising situation, shame would be counterproductive to the important jobs that academic advisors are required to perform on a daily basis. According to Larkin, Crumb, Fountain, Glenn, and Smith (2015), the goal is to protect the students [advisees] from shame…. The discussion about how shame has been used and its impact would not benefit the average academic advisor.

Ronson concludes that online shaming is severe, regardless of whether the individuals or individuals deserved it or not. He shows that there is a human side to shaming, a social and sometimes emotional cost that some cannot afford to pay or repay. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed would be more of a good read for one showing interest in current social issues but not academic advising.


Larkin, R., Crumb, L., Fountain, Y., Glenn, C., & Smith, J. (2015). Managing mental health situations in the advising office. Academic Advising Today 38(2). Retrieved from http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Managing-Mental-Health-Situations-in-the-Advising-Office.aspx.

Lucas, C. J., & Murry, J. W., Jr. (2002). New faculty: A practical guide for academic beginners. New York:Palgrave.

Yarbrough, D. (2002). The engagement model for effective academic advising with undergraduate college students and student organizations. Journal of Humanistic Counseling and Development, 41(1), 61–68.

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