some years back, a friend of mine became the subject of an online smear campaign. i read an account of a person whom he allegedly begrudged, and the story was shared by people on my friends list: people who were quick to make conclusions about him as though they knew him, as though they were familiar with the facts. i wasn't quick to judge him. but i was even in less of a rush to defend him. i had his number on my phone and called him to ask what no one seemed to be interested in: the truth.
this is the reason why i have never taken part in bandwagons that shame people online: because we know nothing, or at least, we do not know everything. even when people i know share personal experiences that are damning against someone else, i am not quick to click "share". it is not that i do not believe them. it is that i do not have the complete story. it is that complaints are always tainted by bias to favor the complainant: to paint themselves as victims, to depict the defenders as oppressors.
i do not doubt that some good has come out of online shame campaigns, and i am also certain that many armchair sleuths have provided investigators with vital information. but i am also sure that while our purpose is to teach bad people a lesson, we also contribute to the suffering of individuals. and not just those who are wrongly accused, but the accused themselves. why can't they be allowed to suffer punishment in private? we all have our reasons for riding these streams of anger. perhaps we want to help make society better for ourselves and for our children. perhaps we believe that some people deserve to be disembowelled in public. and that is precisely why in modern civilizations, those decisions are better left to impartial third persons. the next time you think you're doing a public service by sharing stories that tend to cast ignominy on anyone, remember always that defamation destroys lives.
and yours could so easily be next.