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Will We Be Living in a "Shame Nation" in 2019?

A majority of people blame social media for the rise of incivility in America.

Source: Bigstock

What exactly is a shame nation? It describes the culture we live in today — where a majority of people are armed with smartphones ready to catch and post your less than flattering moments.

In a 2018 survey, Civility in America, the majority of Americans (84 percent) have faced incivility, and 56 percent blame social media and the internet for the rise of cruelty among each other.

We live in era of aim and shame. With handy digital devices at our disposal, everything and anything can be recorded and posted — from a budding romance on a plane to a woman shaving her legs at a public pool or parents using online humiliation as punishment.

It seems this has become a favorite American pastime, and raises the question: Why are we so obsessed with publicly shaming each other?

Recently I addressed this topic on The TODAY Show for #NoJudgment Day. Here’s what Hoda, Kathy Lee, Meghan Trainor, and I discussed.

Does it boost our image?

When we mock or insult people online, especially when we do this anonymously, do we believe we are better than the average person or would never have our own "oops" moments offline?

How many of us have had a parenting cringe moment and are so grateful when it’s not immortalized on social media?

When exhausted mom Molly Lensing decided to let her infant finally stretch out on the floor following a 20-hour layover at an airport, she didn’t realize she was only a click away from internet infamy. A bystander with a smartphone quickly snapped a photo, posted it, and soon it went viral — with shaming comments.

There are no boundaries when people want their 15 minutes of fame online, or when they are living for "likes" on social media.

Shaming, Hollywood-style.

Celebrities and public figures seem to be the biggest targets of the most malicious online hate. Do we believe they are immune from feelings or emotions? Are they somehow protected from cyber-bullets?

Many associate online shaming with women as it pertains to body and slut shaming, however recently comedian Pete Davidson has come under vicious digital attacks by trolls too. He has publicly shared that he is struggling with mental illness, as he posted on Instagram in part, “No matter how hard the internet or anyone tries to make me kill myself, I won’t.”

Does it make us a bigger person when we point out others' flaws — publicly?

Has incivility become the status quo?

Have we become so immune to (or even accepting of) incivility and infringements on privacy that we now ignore it or even forget what we took for granted not so long ago? After all, when the leader of the land is acting inappropriately online by tweeting out some of the most offensive comments, these same behaviors can’t help but trickle down into the rest of society.

What determines shameful or acceptable behavior online? Could our culture be regressing to the 60s? The hippie generation of carefree, careless behavior, completely free of any sense of shame or fear of consequences.

Except that today, it's a global phenomenon taking place online, and there's an army of onlookers out there ready to pass judgement.

Your online reputation in a shame nation.

Almost weekly we see headlines about people being fired or reprimanded for dumb digital decisions or post remorse — whether recently made or unearthed from the past.

Actor Kevin Hart found himself stepping down from hosting the Oscars due to regrettable tweets from 2011.

A majority of employers review your social streams before deciding whether or not to interview you, according to the latest CareerBuilder survey. More concerning is that your online behavior is never off the clock, as more and more businesses have incorporated social media policies and have reprimanded or fired workers for their posts.

We are living in a shame nation, but you can take certain steps to protect yourself. Review your search results, use a free tool to monitor when your name is mentioned online.

Comb through your social media platforms and take out any questionable content, become more mindful about what you share, and keep in mind that your career may be impacted by what you post as well as how you treat others — online.

Never doubt, your online behavior is a reflection of your offline character.

While we are living in this nation of finger-wagging vultures armed with keypads, we're all a click away from digital disgrace.


Civility in America 2018

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