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Social Media- Is This Really the Digital Age Version of the Scarlet Letter?

Social media: a place where you can share photos, statuses, and most importantly, memes.  In the age of everything digital, what could go wrong? What seems to be lighthearted and a fun way to show off your new pair of shoes or a new promotion you got at a job, can actually be pretty deadly.  In fact, it can be charged with being the modern day Scarlet Letter.

For those who don’t know, The Scarlet Letter is a historical fiction novel released in 1850 by American  author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Set in Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1642, it relates the tale of Hester Prynne who becomes pregnant with a daughter through an affair.  A crowd gathers to witness the punishment of Hester since she struggled to stay on her path of repentance and dignity every female was sworn to have in this time period. She is required to wear a scarlet red “A” on her dress for adulterer.  Her sentence for her sin is to stand on at a podium for three hours, exposed to public humiliation, and to wear the “A” for the rest of her life. Her “sin” results in her being shunned for her actions and everyone basically avoiding her like the plague.



So what’s the deal? What does a book from the 1800s have to do with today’s society?  Due to the nature and treatment of social media today, it can actually be seen as the modern day Scarlet Letter.  Think about it: news gets leaked of a scandal and it blows up online, people ostracize them, and they are blacklisted, the most recent example of this in the media being the Jordyn Woods and Tristian Thompson scandal.

Married to Khloe Kardashian, Thompson and Woods attempted to hide their affair, but the news ended up getting out.  Through this, Woods ended up being dropped completely by the Kardashian/ Jenner clan and the scandal had started to hurt her career.  The entirety of Instagram started to unfollow and isolate her, calling her a “homewrecker” and a “slut”.

The effect of this has been featured in pop culture as well through the movie Easy A with Emma Stone and Amanda Bynes, following a more modern day version of the Scarlet Letter storyline and showing just how much this affects people.  

Yes, this treatment follows celebrities and influencers on a much larger scale towards being blacklisted, but it can also happen to individuals on a much smaller scale.  Cyberbullying has become a huge concern because of social media, and adds to the modern day Scarlet Letter risk.  All in all, it’s important to be mindful of this when posting on social media.  You never know who will see it and what the consequences might be.

Madison Paloski is a senior at Lasell University studying fashion communication and promotion and graphic design.  She is currently the Editor in Chief of her school's chapter of Her Campus, an editorial stylist for POLISHED Magazine and Founder and Creative Director of the Fashion Styling and Photography Club on her campus.  She can most likely be found with an old film camera in hand, eating Chipotle, or at any local Saver's.  Her Instagram can be found at @maddiiiooyx and other work can be found at madisonpaloski.wixsite.com/portfolio.
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