Social Shaming in TES

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright July 2017


Social shaming is an activity that has been around as long as humanity. It was as routine in the Stone Age as it is in the 2010's. But the forms and functions it takes vary with each society and each age. Technology and enfranchisement both affect the styles and influence of social shaming.

This essay is about the likely styles and influences of social shaming in the communities of the 2050's -- the necessity and ambitious class lifestyles.


Social shaming is a tool a community has for influencing the behavior of community members. It is a negative tool, encouragement is a positive tool.

Social shaming is context sensitive -- consider the difference between what people shame at a Sunday church meeting and at a raucous party-hearty victory celebration for the home team winning a championship.

Social shaming is influenced by community-wide feelings such as enfranchisement, complacency and embracing a Big Vision. Enfranchisement and embracing a Big Vision make people of the community more tolerant while increasing complacency makes people more prescriptive. An example of Big Vision creating a tolerant environment is the boom-town environment. In a boom town a Big Vision is in place and active -- the people of the community are there to get a big project accomplished. This makes them more tolerant and less prescriptive. An example of this boom town tolerance that comes to mind is Margaret Bourke White reporting in Life magazine's first issue (1936) on life in the boom town that was building the Fort Peck Dam in Montana. One of the pictures shows a child sitting on the counter in a bar. In communities not participating in a Big Vision this is a shamable activity.

And social shaming is technology sensitive. In the 2010's we have Facebook and smartphones as well as over-the-fence gossip for conducting shaming campaigns.

As we roll into the 2050's our lifestyles will be changing in many dramatic ways and one of the changes will be in how we conduct our social shaming -- what we shame and how we shame will both be changing.

What's coming

Social shaming will be a big part of 2050's life, in particular necessity class life. Shaming is highly emotional so, like love, engaging in it is comfortable for lots of people. Historically what held it in check was activities that were dangerous and required lots of serious cooperation, such as crewing a sailing ship or working in a factory. But if you and your associates are not working on anything dangerous and requiring serious cooperation, why not let it get big?

A necessity class lifestyle is specifically designed to be not dangerous and not requiring lots of human cooperation to be prosperous. This is an environment where all the basic necessities are being provided whether or not a person cooperates with others.

The ambitious class lifestyle is the converse. This is one where a person is working on something critical to improving prosperity. In this lifestyle enfranchisement and a Big Vision will be operating and tolerance will be much higher.

In the necessity lifestyle, where you don't have a Big Vision in your life to keep you cooperating with folk around you, then acrimony ("trolling") can suit just fine for day-to-day living. Acrimony is supported by the Us versus Them instinct.

And this brings up the question of how is busybody prescriptionism going to fit in? Who gets to put their nose in other people's business, and how do they do it? How forceful do the busybodies get to be?

This is likely to be the biggest threat people feel in the 2050's. This will be mixed in thoroughly with pervasive surveillance. Related: How will cyber muses get involved in social shaming? Which way? Will they diminish or amplify?

Prosperity in the 2050's won't depend on lots of humans cooperating to accomplish a Big Vision, so the chances of one emerging in the necessity communities are pretty slim. The best chance of a Big Vision happening is that cyber, for some reason, sees benefit and creates and supports a Big Vision for the necessity humans to follow. This could happen because people following a Big Vision are in general happier than those being acrimonious, and cyber muses are working to keep people happy.

An example of a region and time that appears to have been good at sustaining Big Visions is the Nile River region during its Ancient Egyptian cultures, with their monument building being the enduring product of their stream of Big Visions.

Shaming: The Brothel Model

Brothels and the sex trade are a historic example of social shaming where the participants and what they do are known to the community and the practice continues in a stable fashion. These people are shamed but they go on with their activities in spite of the shaming. This is what stable 2050's social shaming will be like.

I foresee that sustaining the sex trade in an environment of pervasive surveillance will likely put it in a pioneering role in how privacy will evolve as the pervasive surveillance environment becomes more and more widespread. Who gets to see what is going on in the brothel? Who defines what is a brothel? Who will tolerate what they see? Who will shame what they see? What will be formal shaming, what will be informal shaming?

In sum, shaming in the necessity communities is likely to be active and widespread. It will be "trolling" in those many guises that are active in the 2050's.

Wearables and shaming

How will wearables influence shaming? In the 2050's wearables will be able to control emotions -- a person will be able to "dial up" or "dial down" various emotions such as love and fear. Shaming is highly emotional on both sides, initiating and receiving, so wearables should make a big difference. But what effect will a wearable that is controlling those emotions have? I'm guessing it will be able to make the receiver thick-skinned. Can it also reduce the joy a troller gets from initiating insults? What will make the troller want to do the reducing?


Because the danger and the benefits of people cooperating are going to be reduced in the necessity lifestyle, social shaming will increase. It will take on a much bigger role in many people's lifestyles than it does in the 2010's.

Thanks to lots of new technologies how to shame will become more diverse and what to shame -- what to get prescriptionist about -- will also increase in diversity. People are going to be watching their steps a lot more closely in the 2050's -- their steps and the steps of those around them.



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