History is littered with examples of public shaming. Criminals were restrained in pillories and pelted with rotten fruit. Adulteresses were paraded through villages. Thieves' hands were amputated as crowds whooped and jeered.
In the western world at least, we like to think we've put our dark history of public shaming behind us. We are appalled when we read about the barbaric punishments that were meted out to criminals - but perhaps not so horrified by the public nature of them.
Our savage compulsion for public shaming hasn't really gone away - it has just mutated into something else. It now takes place largely on Twitter, where social justice warriors are the modern-day judge, jury and executioner.
Say the wrong thing on the social platform and you'll incur the full wrath of call-out culture. Your mistake will be exposed by the morally righteous and crowds will soon gather to watch as your punishment is meted out. It may not be as barbaric as public shamings of the past, but make no mistake, it's just as merciless.
In the last five years or so, call-out culture has metamorphosed into cancel culture. A grovelling apology no longer cuts it on Twitter, where the baying mob now dole out life sentences on their lunch breaks.
Saying the wrong thing on Twitter can now cost you your livelihood.
Caroline Flack was the victim of cancel culture in the weeks before she took her own life. Over a million people have since signed the 'Caroline's Law' petition that calls for laws regulating press intrusion on those in the public eye. Less has been said about the petitions that were posted shortly after she was charged with common assault on her boyfriend. There were calls for the presenter to be sacked from Love Island, which no doubt influenced her decision to step down a few days later.
There is an argument that call-out culture is ultimately progressive. It exposes sexist, racist and homophobic remarks and highlights unconscious biases that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The problem, however, is that the Woke Brigade make little attempt to call a person in before they call them out. So used are we to the public nature of Twitter discourse that we seem to have forgotten that there is another, much more civilised, way of taking a person to task.
We don't always need an audience when we highlight a person's mistake. Indeed, if we really want a person to listen, learn and do better, we'd be much better off communicating with them privately.
Consider for a moment how people behave when they are under attack or, in this case, on the receiving end of a Twitter pile-on. Stunned by the sudden onslaught, they go into fight-or-flight mode. Some hide out from the twitchfork mob, hoping that the outrage will subdue if they don't rise to it. Others, sensing the inherent unfairness of public shaming and mob rule, decide to fight back, which of course just backs them further into their ideological bunker.
Call-out culture is everywhere these days. It's the boss who gives you a scolding in front of your colleagues, but who can barely make eye contact in the lift. It's the mum on the parent WhatsApp group who passes not-so-subtle remarks about a certain child's behaviour.
It's often dressed up as righteous indignation and moral outrage but peel away the Simon-pure conceit and you're left with something much more vindictive.
Call-out culture gives us an opportunity to virtue-signal our moral superiority while feeding our much more savage urge for public shaming.
If you've ever been an active participant or silent bystander to public shaming, it's worth considering what you're actually hoping to achieve. Are you trying to highlight sexism or showcase your deep understanding of gender politics? Are you trying to expose bigotry or get likes?
Crucially, are you striving to effect social change or are you subscribing to the fundamental belief that people don't change and should therefore be shamed into obscurity?
Call-out culture has its place but perhaps it's time we reconsidered how - and why - we do it.
Query: We’re moving out to start a long-overdue refurbishment and small extension of our house next month. The builder expects the work to take six months. Once he’s finished, what guarantees are in place for the works, and how do I make sure he will come back if something goes wrong?