While camera phones and broadband have made busting perverts and criminals a new hobby, there's also a growing interest in documenting less severe social transgressions, posting them online, and then letting the Internet community heap their righteous scorn upon them. Sites are springing up that focus on busting bad drivers, dog-owners who fail to pick up dog poop, or even obnoxious cellphone users. The new trend represents "a return to shame as a check on social behavior," according to one academic, who suggests that shame became a less powerful social force as we spent more time isolating ourselves in cars or impersonal cities and suburbs. The bad drivers, dog poop leavers, and cellphone chatters aren't amused; one targeted crappy driver -- clearly new to this whole Internet thing -- complains that "you can just go online and say whatever you want whether it's factual or not." Of course the social shame concept only works if people in your community (and the jerk who annoyed you) visit the website in question and care about what you think. Cyber-shame is most effective when you're part of a social system. For instance it's successful at Yahoo, where employees post photos of poor campus parking to shame people to action, but less effective in a social vaccuum. Posting pictures of dog poop to a niche blog in the hopes of enacting social justice might make you feel good, but if you really want someone to stop annoying you, you may just have to -- god forbid -- actually walk up and talk to them.
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