Only a few things can happen to you online in the early 21st century that are as terrifying as getting cancelled. As we share our thoughts and opinions on social media and generally interact with the world, there’s a sensor at the back of all our minds that’s on alert for the possibility of us getting trampled by an internet mob.
On the off chance that a boomer stumbled upon this, or this piece is picked out of a million, some gazillion years from now, to understand the lost race of humanity, what is cancel culture?
Cancel culture refers to the wave of heavy criticism and online bullying that occurs when “the internet” decides that someone has shared an opinion that is generally unacceptable (now or in the past). Although this is usually often targeted at celebrities, anyone can get it when cancel culture is involved. Even companies and big or small brands are not spared.
Every group with its set of opinions can potentially become a mob to “cancel” anyone who opposes them. Some say this is harmless and has no real-life implications, but that’s rarely ever the case.
Cancel culture thrives because we often do not see it for what it is – organised, mass bullying. We want others to conform to our perspectives and if they don’t, we berate them and go on a slew of online attacks until they bow or are beaten.
Years ago this wouldn’t have meant anything, I mean, the internet didn’t mean much then, but now? Its relevance is tons more. We spend more time on the internet and social media than we ever previously have and social media has become a part of societal perception – like it or not.
There are a few reasons I think that cancel culture should be cancelled. I want you to think of them the next time you are part of a cancelling mob.
- Cancel culture undervalues differences: With everyone having a voice on the internet, we often forget how heterogeneous we are as a species. We’re all different. Expecting everyone to have the same, or similar opinions and cancelling them otherwise is just unrealistic, and untrue to our nature as humans.
- It pretends that people can’t change: When we cancel people for opinions that we decide are wrong or unacceptable, we exclude and ignore the fact that people can and often do change. Opinions are rarely ever set in stone, but cancel culture always treats them as titanium.
encouragesis mass bullying: Whether we admit it or not, cancel culture is essentially bullying. No matter how extreme a person’s opinions are, social media isn’t a court and bullying a person is never right.
- People deserve second chances: Another pitfall of cancel culture is that it decides that people do not deserve second chances, that we are all completely good or completely bad. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Each of us has some opinion that we probably could get cancelled for. Misconceptions and biases that we grew up with or were societally conditioned to have. If we all got cancelled for them, how would anyone do better?
- People grow with time: Perhaps the most ridiculous form of cancel culture is the kind that chooses to cancel people for opinions they had some 10 or more years in the past, without giving them an opportunity to even account for this. Everyone is continuously growing. Some opinions I had 5 years ago make me barf right now. Why should I then get cancelled for opinions I’ve grown beyond?
We all feel justified when we get the opportunity to cancel someone whose opinions do not align with ours, but that justification is often misplaced.
We don’t try to cancel governments who do wrong but will go ahead to cancel random celebrities or individuals who just think differently from us. Very reminiscent of jungle justice – burning a petty thief for stealing a loaf of bread, but cheering on the politician who’s responsible for the hungry stomach, to begin with.
This piece isn’t meant to inspire a political movement, but to call for empathy. No one, no matter how despicable, deserves to be bullied online by a crowd, just for having different opinions.
Differing opinions are how we have evolved so well mentally as humans, let’s not trump it now.