published on June 24, 2017
Kathryn J. Norlock
Online shaming is a subject of import for social philosophy in the Internet age, and not simply because shaming seems generally bad. I argue that social philosophers are well-placed to address the imaginal relationships we entertain when we engage in social media; activity in cyberspace results in more relationships than one previously had, entailing new and more responsibilities, and our relational behaviors admit of ethical assessment. I consider the stresses of social media, including the indefinite expansion of our relationships and responsibilities, and the gap between the experiences of those shamed and the shamers’ appreciation of the magnitude of what they do when they shame; I connect these to the literature suggesting that some intuitions fail to guide our ethics. I conclude that we each have more power than we believe we do or than we think carefully about exerting in our online imaginal relations. Whether we are the shamers or the shamed, we are unable to control the extent to which intangible words in cyberspace take the form of imaginal relationships that burden or brighten our self-perceptions.