Public shaming has become a common pastime during the pandemic. But it doesn't really work

People relax at a park in New York on May 3, 2020.

(CNN)Public shaming, in this era of rapid judgment and ensuing internet outrage, is nothing new. But the pandemic has made it a popular pastime.

Runners have been berated for exercising without masks. City dwellers have been criticized for congregating in parks. And beachgoers have been condemned for hitting the sand.
The pandemic has heightened the stakes for every small decision we make about our lives, and people are naturally on edge. But experts say shaming other individuals for apparently going against the rules -- or, public shaming for what you may perceive as public good -- isn't usually the best route to take.
    Here's why we shame others -- and why we shouldn't.

    Why we do it

    It's often a natural response: Shaming or scolding others for not abiding by the rules is a natural response, says June Tangney, a clinical psychologist and professor at George Mason University.
    The pandemic has people understandably worried about their safety. So when someone acts in a way that appears to be putting others at risk, we might get scared or angry. And one way we might express those emotions is by aggressively confronting those who are engaging in behaviors that make us feel uncomfortable.
    People in Boston go for a run on April 17.
    "When we're scared and when we see people doing something that endangers all of us, it's a natural tendency to want to shame them," Tangney said. "It's just not a good approach if, bottom line, you want to see their behavior change."

    We may feel like we're missing out: The impulse to shame someone else might also be driven by FOMO, or the fear of missing out, Tangney said.
    Perhaps you've been diligently wearing a mask on the rare occasions you leave the house, and you haven't been socializing with others. Then you see the images circulating on the internet of runners and cyclists not wearing masks, of people hanging out at crowded pool parties or of beachgoers enjoying a sunny weekend.
    We already know that mass gatherings can endanger lives by potentially spreading the virus to large numbers of people, prolonging and worsening the devastation we're already navigating. So it's normal to feel frustrated by such scenarios, though it's worth noting that some, like running and cycling outside, are relatively low risk.
    "We get this image of half a country having a party that most of us are not doing," Tangney said. "It's natural to become angry and also be afraid and to want to shame people, because we believe if we shame them, they'll stop doing this bad thing. But unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case."

    Why it's usually not effective

    The thing about shaming is that it doesn't really work, says Tangney.
    It can have the opposite effect: Scolding someone for not following the rules is usually done with the intention of changing that person's behavior. But it typically has the opposite effect.
    People don't like being told what to do. And when they're shamed for behaviors that just months ago felt harmless, they're likely to feel attacked and become defensive, Tangney said. Instead of complying, they might minimize or deny any harm their actions may be causing.