Does Public Shaming during a Pandemic Help?

With new guidelines being added to the new norm as we speak, there’ll always be members of the public who don’t follow the guidelines set in place. 

In a bid to forcefully implement the new lifestyle into the everyday lives of the “non-believers”, the rest of the public has resorted to public shaming to ensure that it be done in order to “flatten the curve”.

On top of reducing life to its core, the pandemic has introduced a new pastime in public shaming.

Individuals have been publicly shame for breaching quarantine guidelines, masses of people have been arrested for not social distancing and people are not wearing the facemask when they’re clearly supposed to; on top of that, some are making up their own assumptions on what should and should not be done. Public shaming may be perceived as the way to go when dealing with said issues, but is it usually the best route to take?

Here’s why we do it.

A natural response

According to June Tangney, a clinical psychologist and professor at George Mason University, shaming or scolding for not abiding rules is a natural response. 

This action can be traced back to early parenting methods as seen when a parent scolds a child or not abiding house rules. Parents do this because they are worried about their safety and they express those intentions with confrontation and punishment. 

It’s the same with the pandemic and the public’s choice of shaming those who are not doing their part in the fight against the pandemic.

Following the crowd

The urge to shame someone else might also be fueled with wanting to follow the crowd. According to Tangney, the fear of missing out plays a part to why the public shaming method has gained a large following in recent times.

Maybe you’ve been diligent and have been donning the facemask on a usual basis and have been doing what you can in this fight against the coronavirus, so it’s been frustrating to see what others are not doing at the most least. 

“We get this image of half a country having a party that most of us are not doing,” Tangney said. “It’s natural to become angry and also be afraid and to want to shame people, because we believe if we shame them, they’ll stop doing this bad thing. But unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

Should we do it?

It is understandable that the public wants the safest possible setting for each other and they’re rightfully and clearly worried about their well-being; we might get scared or angry but it’s important to keep our emotions intact.

“When we’re scared and when we see people doing something that endangers all of us, it’s a natural tendency to want to shame them,” Tangney said. “It’s just not a good approach if, bottom line, you want to see their behavior change.”