“You feel as if the entire world is laughing at you–and you are helpless to do anything about it,” Sue Scheff, author of Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate, said.
There are lists of these shaming groups when looking in the Facebook search bar, but there are over one million group members in just the top 18 groups. “That’s It, I’m Nail Shaming” is at the top with 214.7k group members.
Chief Security Evangelist at ESET, Tony Anscombe, said negative comments or conversations about others is not a new thing but social media has widened the ability to talk about anyone and anything.
“Social media has turned a once personal comment that was a discrete part of a private conversation and given it a broad platform allowing a crowd culture of negativity with complete disregard for the victim,” Anscombe said. “When emotional or psychological harm is evidenced and can be attributed, then the victims should be granted the same protection they are granted if the harm were physical.”
The groups post pictures of people that vary from A-list celebrities and social media influencers to complete strangers and mutual friends. These groups emphasize that members must block the eyes of strangers or friends, but can be ignored if the person has any amount of following on social media.
Scheff said that cyber-bully victims of any age or status live in fear that the post and comments are real.
According to the listed rules, the groups are private and ban members from reporting the page or posts. The moderators ask members to be over the age of 17 to limit the chance of bullying children or teenagers.
Anscombe said protecting the young and vulnerable is a natural instinct of any adult especially with bullying, but it does not mean that adults should be less cautious about themselves.
“While an adult may possess the ability to process issues in a more rational manner, an advantage over a child, it does not necessarily mean that the emotional or psychological effect that harassment and bullying can have on the individual carries any less of a negative impact,” Anscombe said.
The Pew Research Center’s 2020 study on online harassment found that roughly 4 out of 10 US adults have experienced online bullying.
Most cyber-bully campaigns, such as STOMP OUT Bullying™, target towards young children and teenagers—often stopping at the age of 24.
There is not an official known track of where these groups first started, but the Facebook groups were exposed nationally in 2018 when a reddit user, u/EvilCowEater, shared a screenshot of a “That’s It, I’m ring shaming” post.
The post shows a ring that the group member found in her boyfriend’s nightstand and asking group members to roast the choice of ring. The post read, “Please roast and then tell me how to tactfully say no you need to get something different.”
The post received threads of backlash towards the ring shamer.
Reddit user, u/HankScorpio_globex wrote “If I’m reading this correctly, there is a whole group for ring shaming? Jesus, what miserable people.” Which u/EvilCowEater responded with, “Disgusting, right? Who would marry anyone in that group?”
The ring shaming group proudly confirms the contribution to the viral post and highlights their national fame in their group description with “Definitely the group you heard about on the news, radio, youtube, or reddit or whatever #oops.”
These groups address quickly that this is not a place to be nice and to not give or receive compliments. Shaming group descriptions are often filled with statements like “This group is not for compliments or praising,” or “We’re laughing at makeup, it’s not that deep.”
Before being allowed in these private “shaming” groups, Facebook users must fill out a questionnaire—varying from your intentions, testing how sensitive you are or going over the rules—and a moderator will check to decline or accept based on these answers. Some groups highlight the rules and some groups such as “That’s it, I’m craft shaming” make you answer questions like, “If your craft is posted here, do you agree not to be a cry baby?”
With the amount of new daily members and posts, these groups show that there is massive following that a has a mutual crave for cyber-bullying or what they prefer to call as “shaming.” One thing that also seems to stay consistent is the name of these groups.
Scheff said the members and moderators are using this specific phrase as a tool to bully and harass others.
“People use shaming as a legal lethal weapon with a belief they are doing us all a favor.” Scheff said. “In my opinion, there is nothing acceptable about hurting, harming or shaming people for how they wear makeup or how they choose to live their lives.”
Scheff’s belief regarding the shamers mission of “activism” is also in her article, The Impact of Public Shaming in a Digital World.
“Your immediate gratification to insult someone for what you may believe is activism, will be attached to your digital resume forever,” Scheff wrote in her article.
Most of these groups allow you to post anonymously by posting directly through the page or messaging an admin. This seems to receive even more negative feedback from both members and outsiders.
“I don’t respect anyone that shames anybody – but people who shame anonymously are the biggest cowards out there – since they have a lot to say, yet not bold enough to put their real-name to it,” Scheff said.
These groups have even reached Youtube and other social medias. A Youtuber known as “Smokey Glow” posted a 16-minute “rant” video about a makeup shaming group that she found with a similar name—“Okay, That’s it, I’m make-up shaming.”
“You can be a total jerk and completely anonymous and shame someone you happen to be friends with on Facebook without them finding out it was you,” Smokey Glow said. “If you are going to be a jerk and shame one of your Facebook friends for their makeup—maybe have the balls to put your name behind it.”
It is not only outsiders who address the anonymous shamers—one group member from “That’s it, I’m lipstick shaming” commented “say it with your chest” on an anonymous post.
There are many posts that are not anonymous, but some posts will have some sort of reasoning or mission behind posting. Comments will often point out if the post was created out of jealousy.
One member of the lipstick shaming group posted three screenshots of a girl that started with an explanation for other members to shame.
“This girl keeps liking posts of the guy I like. I kept seeing her name and got a little insecure,” she said. “So I creeped on her page. . .never mind, I’m good now.”
The post received 70 comments—primarily calling this girl jealous and advising her to be worried—under an hour.
The original poster replied to the comments with, “I forgot this SHAMING group has so many saints in it. . .well call me Tom because I’m Petty.”
The post has since been taken down—which is what often happens when a moderator thinks a post has received too much backlash.
Posts that create a lot of interactions—good or bad—can be easily missed. These shaming groups constantly gain new members and are filled with posts every day.
The top five shaming groups feature 1,500 to over 2,000 posts a month. “That’s it, I’m piercing shaming,” gained over 10,000 group members in a week during April 2021.
With a growing number of members and posts a day, it doesn’t seem like online “shaming” or these Facebook groups are leaving—especially if these groups continue to stay private and ban users from reporting posts.
“The groups are unlikely to disappear anytime soon,” Anscombe said. “Unless regulation or a policy by either technology companies or a government entity dictates that they must be removed, or if there is significant public pressure and negativity from the wider audience that forces platforms to remove them.”
Xena Bunton can be contacted at [email protected]