By Ellen Morgan
Nowadays, it seems that no one is safe from Cancel Culture, be it the people around us or high-profile celebrities. In the wake of the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements, we are more socially and morally engaged than ever before, which means that it is possible to call out individuals who have previously been protected by their power and influence.
But, due to social media, we can also ‘cancel’ our friends and family members and delete people we see every day from our lives, sometimes without explanation. While it is important that no one is spared from being held accountable, we must question whether the pervasive nature of Cancel Culture is a valid way to do this.
As the internet occupies an ever-greater place in daily life, more of us find ourselves witnessing and taking part in Cancel Culture; when a celebrity capitalizes on being in favour with the public – through album sales, large numbers of followers, or sponsorship deals – the latter have every right to criticize and ‘cancel’ their support if the person says objectionable and offensive things.
However, Cancel Culture is not reserved for the rich and famous; ‘blocked,’ ‘left on read’, and ‘unfollow’ have become the greatest silent insults you can hurl at someone, and often carry a sense of finality that can be hard to recover from. Without any exchange of words, a seemingly solid friendship can undergo a ‘cancelling,’ either as a way to escalate or end conflict.
It feels ironic that having access to more channels of communication than ever makes it easier for someone to be bad at communicating. The demand to be constantly in contact with people can be overwhelming, especially on top of the pressures of being a student. It is absurd that individuals cannot take a step back from social media for a while without people around them feeling rejected, as if they are owed constant updates on someone’s life.
The instant access and gratification that today’s student generation are used to is potentially a reason for their enthusiastic adoption of Cancel Culture; we have become so desensitized to a fast pace of life that we take it personally when people around us need to take a break from it.
It is also important to consider that Cancel Culture is incredibly binary because it can leave little or no room for ensuring that someone compensates for their actions in a productive way. Of course, not everyone who disgraces themselves deserves the opportunity for redemption – particularly if they do not see the harm in normalizing hateful language and prejudice towards already marginalised social groups.
But, although there are behaviours that no action can ‘correct,’ in the case that there is no scope for forgiveness, it is worth remembering that we are all multifaceted human beings who have said or done the wrong thing at some point. It is not fair to put our friends or people we admire on a pedestal because we do not afford them the luxury of messing up and learning from their mistakes.
While there is a clear limit to what is excusable when it comes to offensive behaviour, we need to learn how not to read into situations that do not warrant using Cancel Culture. Feeling personally attacked because someone has failed to communicate to you that they need space, or immediately cancelling a friendship in response to a single argument, is not rational or healthy.
The power of Cancel Culture is growing rapidly and there is a lot to keep in mind. When exercised over celebrities, it is a process that involves chipping away at the exemption someone is afforded due to their position of power and gaining momentum through public support for their ‘cancellation.’
However, Cancel Culture is often interpreted by many as warranting the total cancellation of someone after one isolated event. On an individual and everyday level, we can use Cancel Culture to focus on bringing down the real monsters in society, but must remember to practise empathy and understanding when it comes to the people in our own lives.
Image: Viarami via Pixabay