Social Media Web Culture

How One Simple Tweet or Post Can Destroy Your Life

Joel Lee 25-11-2015

Social media users — everyday people like you and me — have a tremendous amount of power today. And when that power is combined with the pervasive growth of outrage culture Outrage Porn Is Making You Angry And Dumb, Stop Looking At It Revenge porn is articles, pictures, cartoons or other media that are carefully crafted (either intentionally or not) to make people like you very offended, and very angry. Read More , social media becomes a destructive force that can ruin innocent lives.


That’s what Jon Ronson explores in this beautiful and poignant TED Talk that covers the story of one woman whose misinterpreted Twitter joke nearly drove her to suicide due to the overwhelming force of online shaming.

Long story short: Justine Sacco tweeted a tasteless joke to her 170 followers, as was her routine, and that one tweet became the #1 trending topic on Twitter that night. Suddenly people all over the world were calling for her head, sending her threats, and trying to destroy her life.

Or as Jon Ronson put it, these people — everyday people like you and me — were, in the name of compassion, being largely uncompassionate to this woman. Hypocritical, one might say. This TED Talk is a must-watch for everyone.

Even if you don’t use Twitter yourself, this should concern you. One simple mistake is all it takes for your life to blow up. Death threats, bomb threats, racial tension Arrested for a Tweet: When Twitter, Trolling, and the Law Collide The UK's communications act makes it a criminal offense to send "grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false" electronic messages, but enforcement isn't equal. Read More — even in jest, these can be misconstrued to turn the entire world against you until the world’s sense of “justice” is satiated.


Be careful out there, but more importantly, be compassionate to your fellow human beings. Online shaming is serious Fat Shaming Online: Why All The Hate on Fat People? Being a fat person on the Internet opens you up to a lot of hate, as scrolling through the comments section of any YouTuber's videos will show you. Why? Read More , and this culture of extreme Internet drama can’t be sustained for long before it all collapses to the detriment of everyone. People make mistakes, and you can too.

Have you ever been shamed online? Or maybe you were the one wielding the pitchfork? Either way, we’d love to hear your side. Please share your stories with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Twitter on Mobile by Twin Design via Shutterstock

Related topics: Facebook, Online Community, Twitter.

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  1. Anonymous
    November 26, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I think that the easy availabilty of Internet and its tools makes it easy to forget how powerful an instrument it can be. We often worry about how our privacy is violated, how much our information is leaked, but the truth is that Internet is a place accessible to (nearly) everyone, frequented by people no better than those we meet in real life.
    Thus it falls upon ourselves, first and foremost, to consider what we share online and in what measure, always mindful of whom we trust our information to; knowing that even the best can falter and that anonimity is a double-edged sword.

    • Joel Lee
      December 1, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Absolutely. The power of the Internet (and the information on it) is incredibly easy to underestimate. Double-edged sword is a great way to describe the issues of freedom and anonymity.

  2. Anonymous
    November 25, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    Online shaming is nothing more than mob rule. Internet anonymity and mob psychology allows us to say and/or do things as a group that we would never say and/or do as individuals. Righteous indignation turns into a public stoning.

    • Joel Lee
      December 1, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      I'm inclined to agree with you. It doesn't matter which side of an issue you stand on -- if you're shaming and bullying people, then you're in the wrong. It's amazing how the Internet has made it so easy (and even enticing) for people to devolve into a mob mentality.