“Cancel culture,” a recent trend that exists largely as a byproduct of social media, has begun to explode in popularity. There has always been a series of checks and balances among humans — a willingness to challenge and critique the ideas and behaviors of others. However, with social media, the ability to “cancel,” or call out someone with the intent to punish them, has become far easier than previously. Now, it is possible for groups to band together against one individual, creating a kind of herd mentality. While some people may characterize this trend as an effort to enforce accountability, this mentality is mostly problematic because it leads to the intolerance of beliefs besides one’s own, as well as systematic hostility toward any idea that challenges current societal or cultural standards, preventing social change and growth.
One University of Central Florida philosophy lecturer, Stacey DiLiberto, noted, “If something comes on your timeline or feed, and it’s outrageous or terrible, we often have this knee-jerk reaction, rather than really investigating issues or listening….We have a tendency sometimes to say things via social media…that maybe we wouldn’t say if we were face to face with someone.” It makes sense to cancel somebody in egregious cases such as sexual assault or rape, but where do you cross the line? When does punishing someone for a terrible act become silencing another simply because you do not agree with them? In this case, cancel culture becomes a gateway to intolerance and fosters reluctance towards welcoming new, potentially better ideas.
Another aforementioned issue with cancel culture is that it is mainly the result of herd mentality. People are far too quick to side with others without doing their own research; it is first necessary to read between the lines of an issue instead of blindly believing whatever you are told. Without this ability to think critically, misinformation and false media would become rampant, even more than it already is. On that same note, it is important to forgive people who have made mistakes, even if those on social media may be reluctant to do so. We need to remember that people make mistakes and that a culture of shunning or alienating people who do so will only lead to a collectively uneducated public later on.
Another thing to remember: canceling someone is not activism. Real activism requires hard work and grit, long days spent protesting and petitioning. Canceling requires a few quick taps to send a Tweet. “Mainstream internet activism is a lot of calling out and blaming and shaming,” corporate diversity and inclusion consultant, Aaron Rose, told Vox. “We have to get honest with ourselves about whether calling out and canceling gives us more than a short-term release of cathartic anger.” The reality is that it does not. The effects of cancellation (depending on the person) remain short-lived at best, wasting the public’s time while more pressing world issues remain unseen and unsolved.