Share this Article (Unless You’re Afraid of Being Shamed Online)

People share things they care about on social media all the time. Sure, it can be annoying, and let’s face it, people can sometimes come across as a bit one-note. This is what having an online presence means, participating in a marketplace of rich ideas, immersing oneself in a vibrant exchange of information vital to a healthy society.

There’s a bit of everything out there. One guy, for example, likes to share nothing but pictures of Star Wars characters, while that woman posts volumes of photos of her cats dressed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Another person enjoys featuring bible verses on his timeline, either with or without context (Hint: Context is always better). I’m known as the guy who posts about guitars, dogs, and Monty Python, though in my defense, that’s three notes.

Believe it or not, being on social media is also an opportunity to shame people. Whether the purpose is to shame them into truly doing anything is never clear, but it’s a burgeoning form of slacktivism nonetheless. It’s also worth noting that these shaming incidents often begin with what could be considered a good motive, sharing information and inspiration.

Folks have pet causes, whether they’re related to religion, politics, social justice, or the best place to get Thai cuisine in Salt Lake City. All this can take a dark turn, however, when certain people realize that being online makes it possible to “say” things they might never utter in the real world. Instead of sharing meaningful and helpful information, online shamers try to bully people into submission. Why formulate your own thoughts about the reasons an issue matters when you can just find a meme that helps you in your lifelong quest to be a massive jerk?

Still, let’s not be too judgmental. Maybe online shaming is right for you. Here are a few possibilities to consider.

The Holiday Police

Holidays are important. If they weren’t, why would people get time off work to celebrate them? It’s not enough, though, to just point out a holiday, honor a person or group, and go about your business. If you want to stake out the serious moral high ground, the best thing to do is shame someone over a perceived lack of knowledge, character, or concern, leaving them with their head hanging low in utter defeat.

Here’s how it works: Make an assumption about your typical friend or follower, the less justified the better. Maybe it’s related to their inability to decipher a calendar, read a book, or maintain coherent memories from year to year, or perhaps you just want to act superior. It doesn’t matter. Now, all you have to do is call them out on it.

The possibilities are endless, or at least as varied as the number of holidays on the docket. You could join the “You’ll pry ‘Happy Holidays’ from my cold, dead, lips” crowd or sign up with the “I’ll bet you thought Memorial Day was just about barbecuing delicious ribs” gang. If recent irate posts are a reliable indicator, there could also be an issue with how many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

How dare anyone think about potato salad or bratwurst at times like these? There are more important things happening, things we can’t possibly be aware of or care about if we’re planning to fire up the propane and burn some meat.

The Petulant Politicos

Social media is important, as evidenced by the number of users hanging out online checking to see how many people liked their duckface selfie posts. Social media also has the power to change society, even the world, just not in the way we think.

For instance, there’s been a recent spate of political posting going on. Maybe you missed it. As a result, a few folks have become irritated. Again, you may not have been aware of this, so you should just take my word for it. Eventually, one person criticized another one for a political post, and then, to quote the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut, “the excrement hit the air conditioning.”

The result? Righteous indignation, of course, and here’s how it goes: “You don’t like my political post? Fine, all I’m trying to do is save the world. All you’re doing is posting pictures of sushi and seafood gumbo. I hate seafood gumbo.” You get the idea.

Going out into the world and changing it in a positive way is a noble undertaking, but for the aspiring slacktivist, posting screeds on Facebook is just too good an opportunity to pass up. When people call you on it, though, just be sure to criticize their food photos. It works every time.

The God Squad

It’s a well-known fact that Jesus not only lives on social media, he counts hits, post impressions, and topic trends like nobody’s business. Here’s what you might not know: Jesus also thrives on that engagement. He may even depend on it, based on recent posts I’ve seen. Why else would it be so important to re-post this: “Jesus isn’t ashamed of you. Why are you ashamed of him? Share this post to show you really love him.”

Soldiers in The God Squad often use a clever ancillary tactic, one shared by a few other professional shamers. As part of their post, they include a statistic like “97% of people won’t re-post this. Share if you’re part of the 3%.” This is almost always the percentage split, too, unless it’s ninety-nine to one. Why such drastic numbers? They could be trying to stay general and avoid frightening people with exotic concepts like modes, medians, and standard deviations.

Any way you slice it, somewhere out there, Jesus is waiting, biding his time until a certain user shares a post. Could you be the weak link? Are you willing to take that chance? I didn’t think so.

The Designated Spokesperson

This shaming often takes the form of an actual post created by the poster. I’m kidding. It’s actually copied and pasted to give the impression that it was created by the poster. Instead of posting helpful information about an issue, this one shoots for maximum effect: “If you’ve had experience with [pick an issue: cancer/bullying/broken guitar strings/low-hanging beehives/clogged carburetors],” it reads, “copy and share this as your status to help create awareness.” Within moments, thousands of people are posting statuses about the horrors of, say, standing in long lines at TSA checkpoints.

Like the religious shaming, this one uses fancy statistical data, no doubt meant to dazzle the reader into believing the poster ventured out and performed relevant research. At least when The God Squad throws it out there, it’s easier to believe God did a study. He has the resources, after all. The problem is that it’s not going to create any significant awareness, especially once the astute user spots the fake statistics they’ve already seen ten times during the past week.

* * *

Online shaming is a prime opportunity for the low-level slacktivist looking to get a leg up. It’s a low-stakes venture, and you don’t have to spend money, wear actual clothing, or even get up off the sofa. All you need to do is pull your mini-fridge close to the couch, find a suitable meme, and repost it. Shame will do the rest.

A parting word of caution: Never call a person out by name. Where’s the passive-aggressive fun in that?