Technology And The Return Of Shame

from the your-driving-sucks dept

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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Comments on “Technology And The Return Of Shame”

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SimplyGimp says:


I can agree on the bad drivers. It seems like each day that goes by, more Americans forget how to drive. Constantly going slower than the posted speed limit, clueless on where they need to turn, riding with the blinker on for miles, constantly being in the wrong lane they need to be in.

Shoot, if I had a camera and a place to post each bad driver I’ve seen in the last 3 days, I think I’d fill a 200+gig hdd.

(zomg 1st!)
It’s especially bad in Florida. When it rains, everyone acts like it’s the first time in recorded human history that they’ve driven in rain and everyone slows to about half the speed limit. Really takes the wonder and shock out of random acts of road rage, cause now I know why they happen.

Michael Vilain (profile) says:

Re: Drivers...

There’s a windy pass from the SF Peninsula to Santa Cruz. It’s two lanes and EVERYBODY drives like the laws of physics don’t apply to them. I hadn’t been “over the hill” for literally years when I went with a friend. Sure enough, there was some asshole tailgating us within a few minutes even though we were going 60mph (the posted speed is 55) and keeping pace with the flow of traffic. After a few minutes this guy started flashing his lights. My friend was driving and refused to pull into the other lane as it wasn’t safe. I took out my phone, opened it, and turned around like I was talking a picutre. Boy did that cretin back away quickly.

Some years ago during the dot com boom, there was someone who videoed these type of incidents and posted them on the web every day. Guess they left with the bust cause that site’s been dead for some time. Maybe this will inspire someone to do a similar “commute of shame” or “assholes of Hwy 17” site somewhere else.

Hulser says:

Re: Re: Drivers...

Going slower than the speed limit does not necessarily make one a bad driver, especially if the conditions make driving that fast dangerous.

I can’t think of any situation, other than dangerous conditions or traffic, that you should be driving significantly slower than the speed limit. To put it bluntly, you are a bad driver if you drive too slow.

It’s all about expectations. If I’m driving the speed limit and I come around a corner and granny is puttering along at half the limit, there’s gonna be trouble. Legally, I would be liable, but I believe the granny would have contributed to the accident.

Anything that changes the standard expectations of a driver or sets a driver up to surprised — like driving too slow, passing on the inside lane, or not using your turn signal — is a bad thing. In fact, it’s shameful.

misanthropic humanist says:

rat race

Shame only works if the transgressor actually gives a flying monyeys anus in the first place. The “entitled” personality who yabbers on their phone in the silent zone or lets their dog crap all over your lawn really couldn’t care less, indeed that’s how they got to be anti-social in the first place.

Furthermore, there is such a derth or mutal respect in society that confronting people never seems worth it. It’s a tough call, because ignoring assholes makes you part of the problem, but equally when so many people respond agressively and even violently to being taken to task its easier to just walk on by than to end up having to crack some brother and spend the rest of the day with your hand in ice.

Much more interesting is to question why people live in a state of mutual antagonism. A fellow called Skinner worked this out in the 1950s using rats. The rats love each other naturally, they snuggle and groom one another. But if you put enough rats into an environment and slowly reduce their food resources eventually they become insular and then turn on each other killing the weakest subjects.

This is the natural state upon which a competitive society converges. We are just rats living on the bare minimum that our societies will tolerate without open conflict breaking out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Our society is in a sad state

For people who live in very urban areas, which are often the place that most shameful actions happen, it’s become a threat to your health or even your life to call somebody on their rude or otherwise shamful behavior. One thing that really gets me is a smoker tossing their butt into dry brush on a hot summer day yet even if 50 people see this person do it and every one of them is disgusted by it, none of them will say anything out of fear.

SimplyGimp says:

Where in Florida

St Pete/Tampa area. St Pete is actually the fourth largest city in Florida, so I’m not shocked by the bad driving really. But in the ~4 years I’ve been living here, I’ve been an eye witness to about 5 different car accidents. That’s more than I’ve personally seen first hand than in the rest of my entire life. And I grew up in the Portland, Or. area.

Not sure how bad it is in Maryland though, sounds like you have it pretty bad though lol

security (user link) says:

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

Almost immediately, she started receiving “weird and creepy” calls directing her to a blog.


The person making those calls is guilty of spamming and possibly harrassment. Which is much worst than tallking on a cell phone.

Could this person also be mentally ill?

If someone could react this way and NOT have any concern about the fears that exist in this society about crime or ID theft, one has to wonder …..

malhombre says:


Why don’t we all rig up cheap cameras fore and aft on our cars that record to a cheapo device, hands off except to activate, then we can go home after a long commute and post the half dozen asshole sightings at the end of the day.

Hmmmm, now that I think about it, why DON’T our cars have simple cams recording last 5 mins in rotation along with black boxes in the vehicles? You could wipe out whole dockets and clear the courts for more (what? RIAA cases? college pot smokers?)….oh well.

Amy Alkon (user link) says:

I was the one who had to listen to Eva Burgess

I was the blogger who posted about the loud cell abuser. Oddly, the WSJ called me a “blogger” instead of identifying me or my blog. I guess in the new journalism, less information is more!

Here’s a piece from my blog that mentions both the WSJ story and links to the original:

And as I posted in the comments on my site in response to people who complained about what I did:

As for my posting about this, do you think asking rude people to pipe down really has a great impact on their behavior? If they cared about other people’s feelings, they wouldn’t be shouting in a public place. With more and more people behaving as if this is perfectly acceptable behavior, it’s clear that drastic action like mine is not only necessary but correct.

Also, I think it’s kind of hilarious.

To respond to a comment above: I don’t always feel like getting into an argument with some jerk — even when I most politely ask them if they could “keep it down a little” or something like that. A guy at Trader Joe’s recently screamed at me, “Up your ass! Up your ass!” after I “sshh’d” his cell-phone yammering girlfriend. Unfortunately, while she could’ve made her call anywhere (it is a mobile phone), I was limited to the wine aisle for the purchase of a bottle of wine.

I think, in light of the massive disintegration of public manners in recent years, drastic measures like mine are very much in order.

And, for those who erroneously see this as a privacy issue, maintaining one’s privacy is rather simple. Do as I do: Keep your phone on vibrate in public places (so as not to disturb others), and do your bellowing of personal information behind the walls of your own home.

Think of other people for a change. Perhaps they’d like to spend their breakfast reading the paper and listening to the classical music in a cafe, not being forced to share in the fascinating details of the “flexible spending account” you have available to you in eyecare.

SailorAlphaCentauri says:

Why I like this idea

There is one reason I like the idea of posting bad drivers and the like online and that is this: it will (potentially) cut down on my road rage. I’m not sure how effective it would be to shame people by posting these things online, but I would use it as a way of venting my frustration at the person going below the posted minimum speed limit on the highway, or the person who tailgates me instead of flashing their lights to ask me to move over (just to pass me and then merge into my present lane in front of me), which I already do in one of my blogs as it is.

I would love to do what they do at Yahoo and shame the people in my apartment complex into parking closer to their homes than in the back where parking is at a premium (and people park there because they believe they either won’t get towed [false] or that their car won’t get stolen [the side lot is better for that kind of protection]), but that would imply having a local website that we all have to frequent, and anonymity to avoid retribution from offenders.

The whole phone thing has been bothering me for years. I can remember the early days of widespread cellphone use and being on a bus, listening to a woman talk about funeral arrangements at a place in my hometown. The conversations have only gotten more personal over the years, and I have become more vocal. Then again, I’ve started being more vocal about people who can’t say ‘excuse me’ in public places like grocery stores and Target, so I’ve lost my inhibitions on telling people that they’re conversations are too loud. I wish I could ignore people, but I’ve lost my ability to do that about seven years ago (blame it on my then-job of working in a cubicle at a non-profit full of whiners and *itches taking two-hour [paid] lunch breaks). I just want to learn to be more polite when I ask someone to pipe down (or hang up) so that it has a chance of being effective.

Or, I could just hope they all go to hell and leave it at that (not very nice, am I?).

Steve says:

Dealing with assholes

I recently had a run in with a loud mouth jerk off in a restaurant here in Toronto. Long story short, this jerk to exception to being called out and became violent. Now I’m not a violent guy by nature, but I am ex-military and well equipped to defend myself so when forced to use it, I’ll make sure that the other party is seriously injured for his trouble. Nothing shuts up an asshole faster than the humiliation of being beaten to a bloody pulp in pubic by the very person he was antagonizing.

yoo who says:

check it

Angelina Jolie is simply an unadulterated adultering slut. She is the premium yeasty-twat twit-whore. This hypocritical seeker of sloppy homewrecking seconds should invest in liposculpture of those gnarly scrotum-sausage lips to fund her exoskeleton of a bony arse, so her head might be better nestled while crammed inextricably up there.

You festering baby-napper…we should try to be glad for your exotic child swiping if it limits your urge to propagate your own maggot genes, as the bad apple does not fall far from the nasty mutant family tree. Case in point: you have your father’s bizarre, exaggerated facial twists and pus-bucket cheating heart. May you grow a male appendage so that you can go defile yourself in the way so many command you to. Pig.

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