Andy Crouch: The Return of Shame

Of the many new words that bubbled up from our technological culture in 2014, perhaps the most unsettling is doxxing.

Typically carried out by anonymous online users with axes to grind and little to lose, doxxing involves making someone’s private information public. That includes home addresses, phone numbers, financial histories, medical records—anything that can be found in the endless databases available to canny hackers.

Doxxing can be a drive-by prank on most anyone who draws attention. But more often its targets are singled out for humiliation. In a series of events last year that came to be called GamerGate, certain active video gamers targeted journalists, mostly women, who had criticized the outright misogyny found in many popular video games. The backlash began with the bilious insults that have become astonishingly common online. But it quickly escalated to “revenge blogs” purporting to reveal those journalists’ past indiscretions, and doxxing attacks.

Doxxing is extreme and rare. But it marks the limit of a trend that affects every one of us: aspects of our lives that were once private and fleeting can now be publicly, and permanently, exposed.

An American 13-year-old today has never known a day without the Internet, mobile technology, and social media. He or she started kindergarten the year the iPhone was released and Facebook opened its site to the public. In a single decade, the omnipresence of media has rewritten the boundaries of public and private, exterior and interior. Chap Clark, chair of the youth, family, and culture department at Fuller Theological Seminary, points out that it used to be that high-school students “would leave school and go home, and ...

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