HUFFINGTON POST

Social Media Makes Us All Bullies, Say Monica Lewinsky And Jon Ronson

03/31/2015 04:02 pm ET | Updated Mar 31, 2015

If anyone understands public shaming, it's Monica Lewinsky -- making her a perfect person to interview journalist and author Jon Ronson about his new book, "So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed."

A tendency to go to emotional extremes on social media contributes to public shaming today, Ronson told Lewinsky.

"It's like on social media we've set a stage for constant high dramas," Ronson said. "So, like, we either have to do something wonderful and heroic or something like, 'We have to shame this terrible person.'"

"I sort of think that's not how we are as human beings," Ronson added.

Now a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, Lewinsky was publicly shamed nearly 20 years ago, long before the social-media era, for her affair with then-President Bill Clinton. Her experience is included in Ronson's book.

Another subject of the book is Justine Sacco, the former senior director of corporate communications at IAC, who was publicly shamed for a tweet she wrote in 2013: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

News outlets picked up the insensitive tweet, and Sacco was quickly fired. Ronson suggested that Sacco's treatment was unfair.

"We like to pretend that Justine Sacco's badly worded tweet is a clue to her inherent evil, but that's not true," Ronson said. "We know that's not true about people, but we've tricked ourselves into believing that's true."

Context is key, Lewinsky said.

"What's happened with the Internet is that we lose context for a story, but mainly we lose context for a person," she said. "This is someone's daughter. This is someone's sister. This is somebody that has a sense of humor that might be different from mine. This is someone who has a long range of life experiences, which inform how they themselves, view the world, or how they articulate themselves."

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS