Is Shaming Effective in Curbing Acts of Rudeness?
“Subject: Please read! Message: Just wanted to tell you. You are a loser. Everything your doing with this website is way worse than any thing your complaint about. I would rather a million people blocking the isle with they're bag before sharing a bus with you. If you ever tried to hand me a piece of trash that you call a ticket I would fuck you up! You wouldn't like it if I came up to you and gave you some trash. Why the fuck ywouod you do that. Mitch.” My first hate mail.
Shaming exists in paradox. Committing the arguably rude act of surreptitiously taking a stranger's picture and posting it without their permission in order to educate the masses about the importance of propriety. A contradiction to say the least. On the surface, it comes across as a childish and vengeful way to get back at people by some bitter bozos who’ve had enough of boorish behavior. But, it’s more than that. At least I hope it is. True, for some, shaming is a way to get revenge on the crude folks roaming the streets with blinders on. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get back at the driver 12 cars back who urges you to “go!” with a honk as soon as the light turns green? But for those who’ve had enough of nonsensical behavior, shaming someone can shed light on why doing things like this are little more than silly. What purpose does it serve? The practice of shaming for many is to enlighten people that adhering to certain social norms can make everyone’s lives easier and more pleasant. I could care less which fork to use first at dinner, but that’s not what we’re “complaining” about here. Nor are we discussing the mean and hurtful acts of name-calling, bullying, or teasing, often confused with shaming. That’s downright wrong. For the sake of this article, we will use this definition of shaming; to publicly humiliate or shame for being or doing something specified.
Take the unspoken code of following the same rules of the road while walking for example. Would you suddenly stop in the middle of a highway? Then, don’t do it on a sidewalk. Would you cross a street without looking both ways? Then, don’t do it when exiting a store. Would you swerve wildly while texting on a busy city street? Then, don’t do it while walking. Would you drive in the wrong lane? Take up the entire road with a large group of cars? Run a red light? Who made these rules that some people insist we follow? Will shaming people who don't follow them bear any fruit? In comes Man’s Marbles’ catch phrase, “Exploring the things that drive you nuts.” But first, it’s story time. In the beginning, there was man . . . losing his marbles! Soon after moving to New York, cited for being one the rudest cities, I made a boo-boo and was accosted by a man for wearing my backpack on a sardine packed subway train. “Can you take that thing off? It’s taking up space and hitting my back,” he exclaimed. Ego injured, it took all of my will power to keep from escalating things into a confrontation. As if it was my tail, I begrudgingly put my bag on the floor between my legs.
Conflicted, he was right. Why was I getting so angry with him? As I told friends this story, I learned why this blunder is considered an important social norm on subways. Since I had little experience commuting on trains at the time, I was ignorant of why this courtesy counts and from that point forward, I adhere to this simple act of kindness . . . and I didn’t need to be shamed. But, not everybody learns this way. My head was officially dislodged from my bum. I now appreciate the fellow for educating me about this one small piece in a puzzle of a million things to be cognizant of. It started me down a path of researching the myriad of ways that manners matter. But there is an exorbitant amount of faux pas’ a bumbling baboon can commit that will send someone else to the cuckoo’s nest. As if I was the first to think of it, “there had to be a better way to teach civility.” Would fear of being caught not minding your p’s and q’s do the trick? After all, supposedly the feud between the Bloods and Crips began when someone’s shoe got stepped on!
Soon after, the cheeky Stupid Ignorant Asshole Experiment was born. I deduced that when people commit random acts of rudeness, in that moment, the person can be classified into 3 categories; stupid, ignorant, or an asshole. Although, it would be fairer to judge the tactless act alone, for the sake of satire and shock value the idea stuck. This is another facet of the shaming paradox. The goal is not to condemn the person committing code of conduct crimes against humanity, but the rude act itself. I leave it to someone smarter than me to dissect the difference because maybe, for that fraction of a second, the devilish demeanor defines us.
Mantra of the day: If something annoys you, don’t do it to others.
So here you have it, Man’s Marbles, a place to present those pesky pet peeves and decide if breaches in decorum should be obligatory for us to avoid as social norm or just a petty nuisance that’s easily ignored. That’s why I do this, Mitch. Is the taxi driver that just honked at a car for stopping abruptly in front of him considered stupid for immediately doing the same thing to another car just up the block? Was the guy who got pissed off at me for asking him to stop blaring Candy Crush into my ear at 5:30 in the morning an asshole? Are people who do not stand to the right on an escalator so the faster people can pass blissfully ignorant? What about the people who don’t wipe their sweat off the gym bench; who talk on their cell in the movies; who cut you off on the road; who disobey the law; who have a poor work ethic; who stand in a doorway; etc? You’ve heard it a million times, “Such and such is, like, sooooo annoying!” Why is it annoying? Should it be annoying? Why does it annoy you? Why do you let it annoy you?
If you think it’s foolish to waste time on these matters, consider Kees Keizer’s test study regarding the “broken window” theory where he found that when people commit one type of norm violation, it formed a slippery slope where it made other people prone to violate other norms. Simply put, when we allow someone to litter, it makes the next person more likely to graffiti the walls, which causes the next person to justify stealing a bike and so on. Can shaming someone help avoid this domino effect? Can a “piece of trash ticket” correct this problem? Whether or not taking pictures of people’s foibles serves a medium to deter others from being bad examples remains to be seen. For me, however, it has been akin to one of those mystical self-help books and a wonderful learning experience regarding my conduct around other people and its effects on society as a whole. For the many who have delivered me high-fives and sung my praises for dishing out a rude behavior violation while on Inside Edition, they now know someone is out there doing something to correct a problem that is negatively impacting their quality of life. It’s hard work trying to be mindful of others, and few take the time to learn how to do so, but at least I make the effort to mind my manners on a daily basis. I even went a misstep further, I created this unsophisticated website.
Hardly an expert on such matters, this “loser" was also in serious need of an etiquette education. This is where my actions, and this site, took a turn for the better. No longer would my dopamine pleasure pathways be activated by punishing wrongdoers. Despite the shameful act of shaming being considered schadenfreude by some, it has also been very therapeutic for me. Getting all hot and bothered by a lack of common courtesy doesn’t help anyway. As for Mitch, and to the many who surely agree with him, I politely welcomed him to write an article about his frustrations regarding this shameless approach and enthusiastically offered to publish it, whatever his perspective may be. That’s the purpose, to shed light on the things individuals consider poor behavior in the hopes to correct it for the common good. So, is shaming impolite people the proper approach to achieve this end? I don’t know. Ask the moral dilemma psychologists what they found while studying whether people would kill a person to save five.
PUTTING AN END TO ACTS OF RUDENESS ONE RUDE ACT AT A TIME