Have you been publicly shamed? On Nov. 13, the First-Year Experience Committee held its annual Cal Poly Pomona Common Read Panel on this year’s book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by Jon Ronson, which dives into the topic of public humiliation on the internet.

The book features Ronson’s interviews of victims of public shaming who made a mistake on social media, which backfired and resulted in the loss of their jobs, relationships and tainted their reputations.

This years’ panel included Jane Ballinger, a Cal Poly Pomona communication professor; Paul Gordon Brown, director of curriculum, training and research at Roompact, “a software designed for residential education, student learning curriculum and assessment”; and Kalen Allen, a comedian and food critic who created the popular YouTube channel “Kalen Reacts” and is a digital media producer at “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Kalen Allen speaking on how public shaming can happen to everyone. (Ashley Rowles | The Poly Post)

The panel discussed how social media can make or break people’s futures.

“You have to be aware of what you are doing on social media now, because it is going to follow you,” Ballinger said.

Brown said that social media can be a good tool to help fulfill one’s aspirations and career goals, but it must be done carefully.

“You have to put yourself in a place to interact with people that can help you,” Brown said. “But you also would need to protect the things that are important to you.”

Allen agreed and shared some personal experiences that taught him to be more careful about what he posts on social media and remarked on how quickly social media postings cans can ruin reputations.

“I understood early on I was a brand,” Allen said. “You have to figure out what your brand is. I have had positions that forced me to be mindful of what I want to put out there [and] old posts are still an essence of you.”

The panelists also discussed the potential objectives of those who shame and tear people down on the internet.

“Somehow some people think that tearing others down can make them feel whole or better about themselves,” Brown said.

Allen stressed how trying to shame someone on the internet can quickly backfire and cause people to shame the shamer.

“If you come for someone, make sure you come with the receipts,” Allen said. “Make sure you have all the facts together or someone will call you out on it.”

Panelists agreed that not having factual evidence to shame someone could quickly backfire on the person who initiated it.

Students also asked the panel questions about why people do malicious things on the internet.

“People are more lethal on social media because you can’t do anything to them,” Allen said. “The worse you can do is block or report them, and that allows the behavior to continue.”

He said the problem is that social media is a place where anyone can express his or her opinions, whether in favor of someone or not.

“Social media is a platform that has made some people wake up and realize what kind of people are out there,” Ballinger said.

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