so you have been publicly shamed

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Essay Purpose:

The internet has been one of the most impactful inventions in human history. People can now carry with them devices that give them access to the sum total of human knowledge and culture, and that allow them to remain in near constant contact with a seemingly limitless number of people. This has had a lot of positive impacts on our society, but it has not come without cost.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson discusses how public shaming is on the rise in the internet age. In this essay, you must present the argument that Ronson makes about public shaming on the internet, and then argue a position of your own where you assert what it is about the internet that facilitates public shaming. In other words, based on Ronson’s argument and your own experiences, why does public shaming happen on the internet, and why is it such a bigger deal now than it has been before? You should then consider where or not you think public shaming SHOULD be as prominent as it is now, or if you think it actually does more harm than good.


  • A strong thesis statement that makes clear what you think about shaming on the internet
  • References from the book.
  • 12 point font, double spaced, Times New Roman
  • 4-6 pages for final draft
    • 3 full pages for the rough draft

Due Dates and Length Requirements:

  • Rough draft due July 6th, at least three full pages
  • Final draft due July 10th, at least four full pages


Based on your reading of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, address the following questions over the course of your essay. You should include detailed examples from the book to support the claims you make.

  • Why is public shaming on the rise in our modern culture?
  • Based on Ronson’s examples and your own observations, what causes it?
  • Should public shaming be as prominent and on the rise as it is now, or is it more harmful than useful? Why?

Structural Starting Point:

Your thesis statement should primarily assert what you think about modern shaming, and thus should be more focused on answer the latter questions in the prompt. The rest of the introduction should introduce the elements of the book you find most useful.

The early portions of your essay should establish the parts of Ronson’s argument you will focus most on, as well as the examples he provides that you find most useful. You should provide a lot of detail here, because you can’t count on your audience having read the book or being familiar with the instances of public shaming he talks about. If there are examples of public shaming that he doesn’t talk about but you want to refer to, and/or updates to the people and examples he uses that have come out since the book was published, you should establish this early in the essay as well.

From there, use the parts of his argument you summarize and the examples you describe to provide evidence for your specific argument about public shaming.

Suggestions and Recommendations:

Though you are required to read and be familiar with the whole book, you likely won’t be able to deal with all parts of it in a 4 to 6 page essay. Pick one or two of his example stories that you find most interesting, and build your argument around those stories and what he has to say about them.

When considering shaming’s modern impact, consider why you think shaming is so common, and what it gets used for. Consider who is targeted by shaming on the internet, why they are targeted, and what happens to them as a result. Then consider if you think shaming accomplishes something positive, negative, or somewhere in between.

Specific Paragraph Breakdown:

For this essay, I’m going to leave determining the specifics of the introduction and conclusion to you, and provide below some information on what your body paragraphs should talk about and in roughly what order.

Body Paragraph 1 – Detailed example of shaming from the book

Bring up an example of shaming from the book that will help illustrate and argue your thesis. You should go into detail here; assume your audience hasn’t read the book and isn’t familiar with your example, and use this to determine what information you should include and in what order. You should also take this opportunity to lay some groundwork for why this example fits your thesis.

Body Paragraph 2 – What does Ronson have to say about this example?

Ronson does not definitively argue for or against public shaming as a practice. Instead, he evaluates each of his examples on a case-by-case basis. What arguments does Ronson use this example to make, and/or what conclusions does he use this to draw?

Body Paragraph 3 – Second example of shaming

You should include a second example of shaming, using the same standard as you did in body paragraph 1. This can be a second example from the book, or an example of shaming you’re familiar with from outside the book. You should choose an example that goes well with both your thesis and with your first example. If you’re arguing fully for or against shaming, consider a second example that contrasts with your first to show shaming’s strengths or limitations. If you’re arguing that shaming is situationally good or bad, consider a second example that shows the opposite side as your first.

Body Paragraph 4 – What enables this shaming?

Most of the shaming in the book and beyond are made possible, or made worse, by the internet. If this is the case for you, how? What about the internet as a platform enabled it? If one or both of your examples happened offline, how did this fact enable your examples or make them worse? If you have one of each, how does the different mediums of shaming have different effects?

Body Paragraph 5 – Should shaming be a thing and why?

You are building this essay up to this discussion, so now you pay it off. Based on your examples and how they were enabled, do you think public shaming should be a thing? To what extent? Why or why not? Go into detail with why you think the way you do. If you think shaming can be used well, how? If you think it can’t, why not?

Body Paragraph 6 – Should shaming be a thing and why? 2nd Paragraph

Your argument might extend beyond what is manageable in a single paragraph. If this is the case, expand to a second or even third paragraph as necessary. If you’re uncertain where you need to make a paragraph break, consider one paragraph explaining whether or not you think shaming can be used, based on your examination of your examples, and a second that explains how it can be used, or why it can’t.

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