Discussion Guide: The Shame Machine

1. What do you see as the purpose of the “Shame Machine”? Why does it exist?

2. Is there a particular shame you can identify with? Are you willing to share? Do you have a different perspective on it after reading the book?

3. What are the most egregious examples of institutions or companies using shame to profit or gain an advantage? Are there other examples you can think of that weren’t discussed in the book?

4. Who is most affected by the Shame Machine? Are there ways in which you see yourself as beingaffected by it? Are there ways you see yourself as part of it?

5. Talk about the Shame Machine as it pertains to social media. Do you feel platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok have made the Shame Machine more powerful?

6. Discuss the impact—intentional or no—of influencers on the Shame Machine. Do you follow any?Do you see them as healthy or unhealthy?

7. Developing awareness of the dignity violations we commit daily represents the first step towarddismantling shame machines. Are there ways you feel you’ve contributed to the Shame Machine yourself?

8. O’Neil writes, “The other reason to check our shaming impulse is that virtuous tweetstorms often leave the underlying issues untouched.” How does our righteous indignation deflect from our own feelings or leave our own prejudices unexamined?

9. Throughout the book, shame and denial seem to be closely related. What are some of the effects of these emotions? How does one feed the other?

10. Do you believe shame can be positive or healthy? In what ways?

11. Shame can be effective when “punching up.” Do you see any examples today of where that ishappening? Of where that could happen?

12. In the conclusion, O’Neil notes that “It’s far easier to blame than to help.” Do you think that’s true?

13. How are you taking the lessons from The Shame Machine as you move forward? What solutions to fixing the Shame Machine might you consider?