Cancel culture implies discarding people at the first sign of something we dislike. However, we shouldn’t underestimate how quickly someone can change their ideas.
Nowadays, people on the internet are encouraged not to change their ideas. Nevertheless, when they have said something problematic in the past, their followers require them to change those ideas. What it’s even more contradictory is that people are getting canceled for things they said a long time ago.
We underestimate how easy it is for us to become the people we dislike. With different circumstances, a different upbringing, and a different culture, we could quickly become many things that we dislike or find harmful. We should be hesitant about labeling things as “evil.” Although people can be ill-intended, we should be more interested in the root causes than the symptoms. If you can look back on yourself five years ago or more and slightly cringe without hating yourself, you’re moving in the right direction.
As Ayishat Akanbi says, “part of the beauty of living is changing our minds, updating our beliefs, challenging ourselves, confronting ourselves, and hopefully bringing a further understanding of who we are.”
As a term, “cancel culture” carries a negative weight. For several authors, it is an excessive reaction to minor events that can be handled differently. It has also been defined as a hasty judgment in situations that are not so easy to resolve.
Why is this phenomenon such a big deal? To understand it better, it is a practice in which a group of people withdraw support from public figures and, sometimes, companies after committing an offensive act.
Cancel culture is a weapon wielded on many occasions with the excuse of silencing those who, by their speech, threaten various freedoms. Nevertheless, and paradoxically, this action threatens freedom of expression and equally serious issues, such as the right to privacy. If a specific statement is a crime, the law must act. But if some words offend a person or group, being within the law, they must be answered through argumentation, objective data, and constructive dialogue. Nothing should be solved through rude replies.
Since 2017, the word “cancellation” has been growing. Data from Google Trends shows that “cancel culture” started to be a highly searched term in mid-2018. In 2020, the connotation was even political, and “cancel culture” appeared in several spaces. But, if we reflect on this phenomenon, we could ask ourselves which attitude is more reprehensible: Using a fake user name to expose our controversial ideas or criticizing this behavior?
Of course, the messages that users post on social networks always have a meaning and, therefore, an effect on other people, which can be more or less positive or negative. But, unless such publication constitutes a criminal motive, it should never be used to try to get that person to lose their livelihood. It can’t also be ignored that most of the time, cancel culture has its favorites and decide to turn a blind eye when a public figure that most people like do something wrong.