Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Understanding ‘15 Minutes of Shame’

By Hayden Sadler

The Institute for Ethics in Public Life, in collaboration with the departments of communication studies, psychology and gender and women’s studies, organized an engaging movie night screening of the highly thought-provoking documentary “15 Minutes of Shame.” This groundbreaking film explores the rising trend of public shaming in the digital age and its impact on individuals and society as a whole.

The event was hosted by Daniel Lake, director of the Institute for Ethics in Public Life, and drew a handful of attendees at the 6 p.m. session. Everyone present was treated to the film followed by a post-film discussion panel led by a distinguished group of SUNY Plattsburgh faculty members, including Assistant Professors Bridget Haina and Dr. Benjamin Medeiros from the communication studies department, Dr. Connie Oxford of the gender and women’s studies department, and Assistant Professor Dr. Suzannah Chatlos of the psychology department.

The panel discussion covered a broad range of topics related to the issue of public shaming, including the need for social media moderation, the overuse of technology and the differences in how various social media platforms operate and function. One of the most interesting points raised during the discussion was the fact that public shaming is not confined to any particular political leaning. Rather, people across the political spectrum engage in this behavior. Haina elaborated on how information silos reinforce pre-existing beliefs and how algorithms and social media platforms feed us decontextualized information that contributes to the formation of these silos. She further suggested that education rather than regulation is key to addressing this shaming crisis in society.

Oxford pointed out how an addiction to technology has contributed to the proliferation of public shaming, while Medeiros drew attention to the difficulty in attributing a unifying definition to the social issue at hand. He highlighted how even respected publishers such as The New York Times have misrepresented individuals and contributed to their public shaming. The panelists also explored various theories to explain the current trend of online shaming, including the anonymity of the internet and the perception that the internet is not real life, which leads people to behave in ways they would not in person. 

“15 Minutes of Shame” is an HBO documentary that made waves in recent times. It features a wide range of interviewees who have experienced public shaming online, as well as experts in psychology and sociology who provide insights into the complex social and psychological factors that drive this behavior. The documentary’s nuanced and compassionate approach to the subject matter sets it apart from other discussions of cancel culture, as it seeks to understand rather than vilify those who engage in online shaming. Through its exploration of this internet phenomenon, the movie raises significant questions about the impact of social media on our lives and the ways in which we use it to judge and shame others.

It can often times seem easier to take a polarized view on someone because of how the internet or news painted them, and the documentary goes as far as to show the detrimental effects this shaming can have on real people in any circumstance. There is a need for change in how society goes about shaming people and using social media – and the documentary and subsequent discussion were a start in understanding how people view the issue in the real world.

This movie night provided a much-needed platform for open discussion on the issue of public shaming in the digital age. The post-film discussion offered a wide range of perspectives and solutions to the problem, highlighting the need for greater empathy and understanding in our online interactions. “15 Minutes of Shame” is an essential watch for anyone seeking to gain a better understanding of the complexities of online culture and its impact on our society. 

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