These days, you may have heard about what’s being called the “cancel culture.” One of the latest movements on social media, especially Twitter, cancel culture describes a segment of people that use such platforms to call out those who they feel are in the wrong about something.
However, as cancellations target and/or affect more and more people, some now question the movement’s usefulness. And some are fighting back against it.
What do you think? To try and help you come to your own conclusions, we gathered more information about the background of the movement and its main pros and cons.
The History of Cancel Culture
In its current context, the idea of canceling someone can be traced back to 2014. On an episode of VH1’s Love and Hip-Hop: New York, during an argument, one cast member said to another, “You’re canceled.”
The Twitterverse immediately embraced the term as a way to call out others. Many of its members began using hashtags like #canceled, #cancellationparty, and #cancel(insert name here) to express their disgust over a person’s or business’s words or behavior. More specifically, such hashtags acted as passionate recommendations for what was essentially a boycott of that person and any products, movies, etc. with which they were associated.
More than five years later, the cancellation hashtags continue. Recently, the movement’s critics coined the term cancel culture to sum up what they see as toxic and reductive. They see it as nothing more than social media vigilantism. However, is it really as bad as they say?
Pros of Canceling
- When someone says or does something truly stupid or harmful, social media call-outs/cancellations hold them accountable. The results may not be what’s intended–a hashtag is not likely to greatly impact someone who is rich and powerful. But it does at least shine an uncomfortable light on them for a while.
- The cancellation movement, and social media platforms in general, give marginalized citizens the voice to speak out and be heard. In the past, bad treatment could go largely ignored or not be believed. But by putting out the word on social media, where everyone can see it, a person and their concerns can no longer be simply ignored.
Cons of Canceling
- According to its critics, the cancel culture perpetuates an atmosphere of negativity, hate and fear. The popularity of the movement has resulted in what are essentially witch hunts, with people on social media just waiting to be outraged by the slightest infraction. Then, they pounce.
- At times, canceling someone also seems to be nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to what are often complex issues. But rather than discussing someone’s racist or sexist tendencies, they are just canceled. Conversation over.
- Finally, well-established and loved celebrities may only suffer mild effects from a cancellation episode, if any. However, “regular” people and those less-established in their profession may not be so lucky. Anyone who is less well-known who supports or is otherwise associated with a cancelled celebrity is often more likely to be the one who actually winds up canceled.
Cancel culture is a complex issue. As with many movements, it may have started out with good intentions. And it can still be useful in bringing serious issues to light. However, it can also be abused. It does, at times, appear to favor retaliation over discussion. And, if anything, it shows that there are just some issues that cannot be solved in 280 characters or less.
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