The Age of Shame

The ability to capture private images is breeding a dangerous form of digital shaming.

save-m It sometimes emerges as an attempt to shame governments, private institutions, places of consumption, for compromise of the rights of the users.
Updated: March 30, 2014 5:23 am


By: Nishant Shah column

Within the online space, where wonderments often run rife, and conspiracy theories travel at the speed of light, there are many dark recesses where netizens half-jokingly, self-referentially, in a spirit of part-truth, part-exaggeration, often wonder on what the real reason is for the internet to exist.

One suggestion, and probably the most persuasive one, drawing from the Broadway musical Avenue Q, is that the internet was made for porn. Positing a competing argument is a clowder of cat lovers, who insist that the internet was made for cats. Or, at least, it is definitely made of cats.

From the first internet memes like LOL Cats (and then subsequently Grumpy Cat, Ceiling Cat and Hipster Kitty), which had pictures of cats used for strong social, cultural and political commentary, to Caturday — a practice where users on the Web’s largest unmoderated discussion board, 4Chan, post pictures of cats every Saturday — cats are everywhere.

I want to add to this list and suggest that the internet was meant for “shame”. With the explosion of the interactive Web, more people getting access to mobile computing devices, and more websites inviting users to write reviews, leak pictures, expose videos and reveal more personal and private information online, there seems to be no doubt that we live in the age of digital shaming.

It sometimes emerges as an attempt to shame governments, private institutions, places of consumption, for compromise of the rights of the users.

Anything, from denial of service and corruption in government offices to bad food and substandard goods in restaurants and malls, is now reported in an attempt to shame the people responsible for it. This kind of “citizen journalism” allows for individual voices and experiences to be heard and documented, and the people in question are forced to be accountable for their jobs.

From fascinating websites like to restaurant review sites like Zomato, we have seen an interesting phenomenon of “naming and shaming” that gives voice to individual discontent and anger. And so commonplace has this become, that most managers of different services and goods track, respond and mitigate the situation, often offering apologies and freebies to make up for that one bad experience.

Most big organisations have Twitter handles that function in a similar way, addressing grievances of users in real time, and helping to deliver better services and products. It is a new era of granular accountability that ensures that individual acts of discrimination, neglect or just disservice get reported and have direct impact on those responsible for it.

On the other end of the spectrum of this call for transparent and accountable structures, is the phenomenon of shaming and cyber bullying that is also increasing, especially with digital natives who spend more time online. On social networking sites, it has become almost passé, for personal and sensitive information …continued »

First Published on: March 30, 2014 5:11 amSingle Page Format
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