Actions have consequences — especially on social media. This fall semester, California State University, Northridge’s incoming freshman class will explore the drawbacks of living in an augmented reality through its common reading book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” by best-selling author, journalist, and 2016 CSUN Freshman Convocation keynote speaker, Jon Ronson.
Ronson’s book explores the real-life consequences of social media’s extremely public nature with a quick-witted, anecdotal, case-by-case style. Readers can delve deep into the workings of how public shaming has transitioned from a physical public town square in the 18th century to a virtual one on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites today.
English professor Cheryl Spector, director of CSUN’s Academic First Year Experiences program, said the nonfiction work was chosen for its potential to engage CSUN’s incoming freshmen in an insightful and critical way through exploring the ins and outs of social media’s public discourse gone awry.
“Whether we like it or not, we all have virtual lives now,” she said. “This book in a way [teaches] that if you stray from the community standards, you could be virtually shot, so to speak. There are a lot of ethical decision points in the book that are of interest to me in my role as the University 100 course director . . . I want people to think about their ethical decision-making critically.”
University 100 is CSUN’s undergraduate lifelong learning course, which helps students get acclimated to college through developing study skills and short and long-term plans for their academic, personal and career goals.
Spector said she hopes students and readers will become more conscious of what they put up on social media after reading the book, just as she now is.
“I think [the book] has tempered my responses on social media,” she said. “I’m like everybody else — quick to anger and quick to love. But it has inserted the hesitation before I write online. I’m more inclined to ask myself how much I know about something [online]. You can’t just go off ranting because you only see a piece of something. I guess you could call it a lesson I’ve learned from the book.”
For more information on CSUN’s freshman common reading and undergraduate programs, go to http://www.csun.edu/undergraduate-studies/academic-first-year-experiences/common-read.