So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

by

Jon Ronson

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed can help.
A feedback loop is a psychological phenomenon in which one is given instantaneous feedback on their behavior, either incentivizing that behavior to continue or incentivizing changes to that behavior. Jon Ronson points to the example of YourSpeed devices attached to speed limit signs in high-traffic areas: when drivers see in real time that their speed is too high, they alter their behavior in order to receive the validation from the sign that their behavior has become correct. And when they’re already driving at the right speed, they’re more likely to stay the course and remain at their current speed because they’ve gotten that feedback. Ronson believes that social media works similarly: getting real-time feedback on one’s behavior and opinions (via likes, retweets, etc.) leads people to conform more strictly to social norms and received wisdom, and it also can lead to a mob dynamic in which users reinforce one another’s behavior during a shaming.

Feedback loop Quotes in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

The So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed quotes below are all either spoken by Feedback loop or refer to Feedback loop. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Good, Evil, and Inhumanity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Riverhead Books edition of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed published in 2016.
Chapter 15 Quotes

Feedback loops. You exhibit some type of behavior (you drive at twenty-seven miles per hour in a twenty-five-mile-per-hour zone). You get instant real-time feedback for it (the sign tells you you're driving at twenty-seven miles per hour). You change your behavior as a result of the feedback (you lower your speed to twenty-five miles per hour). You get instant feedback for that decision, too (the sign tells you you're driving at twenty-five miles per hour now. Some signs flash up a smiley-face emoticon to congratulate you).

Related Characters: Jon Ronson (speaker)
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:

[Feedback loops are] turning social media into “a giant echo chamber where what we believe is constantly reinforced by people who believe the same thing.”

We express our opinion that Justine Sacco is a monster. We are instantly congratulated for this […]. We make the on-the-spot decision to carry on believing it.

“The tech-utopians […] present this as a new kind of democracy,” [my friend wrote]. “It isn’t. It’s the opposite. It locks people off in the world they started with and prevents them from finding out anything different.”

Related Characters: Jon Ronson (speaker), Justine Sacco
Related Symbols: Twitter
Page Number: 280
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed LitChart as a printable PDF.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed PDF

Feedback loop Term Timeline in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

The timeline below shows where the term Feedback loop appears in So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15: Your Speed
Shame and Social Media Theme Icon
Cycles of Shame, Trauma, and Violence Theme Icon
Shame, Freedom of Speech, and Public Discourse Theme Icon
...now believes that online shaming is so merciless because of a psychological phenomenon known as feedback loops . This phenomenon was measured during an experiment using YourSpeed signs in a traffic-calming scheme... (full context)
Shame and Social Media Theme Icon
Cycles of Shame, Trauma, and Violence Theme Icon
Shame, Freedom of Speech, and Public Discourse Theme Icon
The monumental power of a feedback loop can be used for good, as with YourSpeed signs, or for ill purposes, as with... (full context)