Why internet shaming needs to stop. Now.

by Tieja MacLaughlin

Yesterday I posted a listing to the Facebook Marketplace.

And based on my (horrendous) experience, I feel compelled to share my story. 

The item I listed for sale was a black dress. A black dress worth some $300 brand new, and worn twice. I figured if I got $100 for it used, I'd be happy. 

I posted a photo of me wearing the dress at my birthday party and titled it "Statement Dress". 

Here is the photo:

I received a couple messages from interested parties wanting to purchase, a bunch of likes on the photo and even a few messages from men asking me out. It seemed innocent enough, so I rolled my eyes and moved on.

But I was absolutely appalled by how things continued to escalate. 

The messages from men continued to the point I had to start blocking them. It eventually became so bad I had to alter my privacy settings.

Then I began receiving hate mail and derogatory threats. Even people slut shaming me publicly. Not only did it emotionally make me feel awful, but I actually became scared.

It got so bad I eventually deleted the posts. 

The larger question here is, how is this even possible?

And why the hell would people do this?

On a platform that's designed to connect us, inspire community and hey, even help us earn a few extra bucks for old stuff we're trying to sell.

When did social media become broken? 

What's more, when did we - the people that actually make up these online communities - become broken, and start tearing down the brilliant things these platforms once created?

If you've ever seen an episode of Black Mirror, or the movie The Circle, you can catch a glimpse of the horrific repercussions that come with abusing technology.

Take this scene in The Circle, for example:

By now I'm sure you're all familiar with the stories of Monica LewinskyJustine Sacco and Lindsey Stone, among others, who were absolutely slaughtered online. Many of whom lost their careers, reputations and most of everything they knew in their lives. 

Is it perhaps reality television that made us feel like it's acceptable to judge, critique and pull apart every inch of someone? To sit comfortably in front of a screen and make a mockery of those on display. 

Take a moment to read So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, and really familiarize yourself with the severity of online shaming.

Think back on the absolute worst, or most embarrassing thing you've ever done. Now imagine that thing being broadcast to the world. Fully open to commentary, criticism and ridicule. It feels like an absolute breach of privacy, doesn't it?

We've all got a skeleton in our closet. We've all done something we wish we hadn't. Making mistakes is inherently human! We live, and we learn, and we grow.

None of us are the same person now that we were 10 years ago. 10 months ago. Or even 10 hours ago.

Social media is, at its core and at its heart, a beautiful technological advancement meant to fuel community.

I encourage you to think twice before you shame someone online. Think twice before you start tearing someone else apart for the whole world to see.

Instead, offer an opposing opinion in a constructive way, and add value to the conversation. Use humour as a weapon. Debate, challenge and stand up for what you believe in.

But don't do it by ruining someone else's life. 

Tieja MacLaughlin