It’s Time To Cancel “Cancel Culture”

cancel culture
Photo by Anna Shvets

Do you ever wonder what you were doing this time ten years ago? What were your morals and beliefs?

It’s hard to reliably think back to who we were before years of absorbing new information, learning from others, and trying to be a better person.

Do you ever stumble across a social media post and cringe, or worse, worry about what people would think it were ever to surface again? Thankfully, most of us will only have embarrassing memories and cringe-worthy comments to contend with. But what would you do if you came across something that could get you “canceled?”

“Cancel Culture” is a relatively new term used to describe mass societal disapproval. Withdrawing support from someone due to something they have done which is deemed offensive. Some people refer to it as a “Cultural Boycott,” an instant decision not to forgive and instead erase. We’ve seen it a lot over the past few years, from canceling TV shows and movies to specific celebrities and other famous folk. But it happens on a small scale too, which can be terrifying.

I think it’s brilliant that we live in a time where people feel so empowered. The intention is fantastic—to combat wrongdoing and create social change. But in doing so, we need to make sure we aren’t causing havoc and pain for other people in the process.

Often, cancel culture starts with a few influential people sharing their views publicly. Others then share their agreement and get together to work toward purposely damaging someone’s reputation. Some call it group shaming; others say mob mentality. Either way, it’s not great. For most, the initial intention is pure. But passion can be dangerous.

When we support a boycott of something specific, it likely means a lot to us. We shout up about things that affect us personally or raise our voice to be a good ally to others.

Cancel Culture has made positive changes. Film communities canceled the Oscars in 2016 due to lack of diversity, and three years later were praised for record numbers (and wins) for Black nominees. I feel more comfortable when cancel culture surrounds a concept or an entire event (although still not ideal), less so when it’s targeting an individual.

Even people with horrendously offensive views are humans with complex thought processes, emotions, and lives. I get it; it’s so much harder to empathize when you couldn’t disagree with them more. But whole-heartedly disagreeing with something is not a get-out clause for purposely causing destruction and emotional harm toward them. Remember the old saying, “two wrongs never make a right.”

Being canceled, for most people, would be a sure-fire way of causing emotional turmoil, loneliness, and mental health deterioration. Although we want to show people that it’s absolutely not ok to flaunt completely inappropriate opinions, surely we don’t want to do this at all costs? And what if it’s not an inappropriate opinion at all? What if you just don’t agree with it?

Cancel culture aside, we should still actively call people out. The difference between calling people out before immediately dismissing them is giving them the opportunity to see your side, learn and apologize (if needed).

Can you imagine if we were canceled every time we said something we didn’t mean in the heat of the moment?

We’d have no role models left. Every single one of us has had to apologize for something (likely many, many times).

It’s frustrating when we hope people would learn from others’ mistakes and know better, but let’s use this moment to our advantage. We can politely articulate our concern with something they have said or done, hoping that our actions will influence their response and future behavior.

Consider this your reminder to keep speaking up for what you believe in while allowing space for different viewpoints and for people to learn and grow.

Now back to you.

What would we find if we were to look back at your social media accounts? What would we see in a library of your memories?

This isn’t about shame. It’s being mindful of how our actions can affect others and harm our own lives and what people think of us.

The age of social media means that even job interviews can involve social media searches and Googling your name to see what’s floating around in the public domain. I did this for myself and discovered that all of my past (and current, *facepalm*) employers will be aware of my previous overuse of the word “hun,” incessant use of “<3” before we had real emojis and endless interactions with Draco Malfoy fan pages.

I also realized I perpetuated and held myself accountable to toxic beauty standards that I now openly disprove of and feel passionate about. It really is like 2011 Kayleigh was a totally different person.

If your heart is now racing, why not have a social media cleanse? Rid yourself of the worry about whatever past you posted to the rest of the world.

Next time we feel our rage bubbling up inside us, and we get the urge to cancel, let’s make a conscious effort to educate or simply move on. Cancel culture isn’t worth our time and energy.

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  1. says: Build a Bridge

    Thank you for a much-needed check on cancel culture. I would go further to say that no one has the right to “cancel” anyone in a free society. A democracy only works when all of its citizens have a voice. No one should elevate their opinion to the standard that no one can disagree. As you said, most issues and people are more complex than a single sound bite. To insist on uniformity of opinion is arrogant and dangerous. Dictators have done as much in the present and past. To move forward as a society, we need dialogue and respect, not fear and reprisal. I hope that your article encourages some deeper thought (and dialogue) on the issue. Our goal shouldn’t be to force our opinions and beliefs on others, but to widen our own perspectives as well as that of others, showing some humility in the process. We are all works in progress, as you pointed out, and would not wish to be judged on some old post or comment made years ago.