Cancel Culture Is #Canceled

Getting canceled is no longer the tea, sis.

In an internet-obsessed, social media dependent universe, it seems as though “cancel culture” has become the newest fad used to invalidate individuals who publicly make mistakes or uneducated errors.

After the trend initially found its niche on Twitter, social media users en masse decided to begin canceling a person based on their problematic tendencies and behavior. For example, Harvey Weinstein was instantly canceled due to his lengthy history of rape, sexual harassment and assault.

It’s an understandable choice on the web’s behalf, but recently, the word itself has been getting abused. It seems that any person in the spotlight can be disregarded due to small misunderstandings. Cancel culture grows from the idea that celebrities should be perfect and further fuels the claim that humans aren’t ever allowed to make mistakes.

The Problem with Deciding Someone’s #Canceled

At its core, cancel culture is toxic. It perpetuates the idea that one uneducated opinion invalidates your entire existence, but also pushes people to refute one another instead of inform them.

At the same time, there seems to be a spectrum of sorts when it comes to canceling a person’s existence. At the top of the hierarchy are people like Kanye West who infamously claimed slavery was a choice, a power hungry abuser like Kevin Spacey or a racist like Roseanne.

These are people that have committed outrageous crimes and said terrible things with limited remorse. These aren’t necessarily the people that don’t deserve to be “canceled.”

Next could be the ignorant, but potentially blameless — famous individuals such as Yara Shahidi, Emma Watson or Shane Dawson — those that maybe don’t deserve to be invalidated due to miscommunication or, more commonly, miseducation.

So, here’s the main issue with cancel culture as a whole: It relies heavily on the idea that people aren’t allowed to make mistakes. Human beings, including celebrities, are constantly learning new things and gaining knowledge.

Cancel culture is so deeply rooted in maliciously calling people out for saying something foolish without a thought about forgiveness, and that’s why it’s become such a toxic internet mechanism.

It’s unrealistic to expect your favorite celebrity to have all the right answers and opinions. There’s no reason why Gabby Douglas should be canceled just because she made inappropriate, uneducated commentary regarding Larry Nassar.

By steering away from cancel culture, I am in no way saying that people with highly offensive pasts (Harvey Weinstein, for instance) should suddenly be forgiven. I’m referencing those who simply didn’t know better and were attacked online for voicing thoughts that were blatantly unaware.

Point being, why cancel someone without batting an eyelash when you can use your knowledge and experience to help educate them instead? Cancel culture thrives on calling people out for making uninformed statements and refusing to give them a second chance. What’s the point in that?

In real life, if a person made a bold assertion that was false or controversial, it would be quite ridiculous to reply with, “well, you’re canceled, sis!” Bottom line, it’s just as ridiculous to do that on the web.

How to Move Past Cancel Culture

A massive problem with cancel culture is that online users would rather … well, cancel people instead of educate them. This goes beyond social media influencers and Hollywood A-listers alike and extends all the way to everyday people. Educating or offering knowledge to the unaware is a much more productive act than simply quoting their tweet with “#canceled!”

An example: Late last year, Olympic athlete Gabby Douglas posted some controversial commentary regarding disgraced doctor and sexual predator Larry Nassar. In regards to Nassar’s victims, Douglas took the victim blaming route, claiming that it’s a woman’s responsibility to dress modestly in an effort to avoid “the wrong crowd.”

Douglas, who ended up revealing she was one of Nassar’s many victims, inevitably received a plethora of hate comments. While Douglas’ critiques were perhaps insensitive at the time, social media onlookers chose a path of verbal attacks and hatred, thus forcing her to apologize.

But here’s the thing. The vast majority of those comments and replies to Douglas were filled with rash statements, questioning her loyalty to her fellow Olympians and sexual assault victims. Now social media consumers very rarely let Douglas’ name grace a tweet without someone bringing up her comments, donned as an explanation as to why she’s on the list of canceled celebrities.

A better course of action for internet users would’ve been to identify Douglas’ mistake and explain why it was wrong in the first place. It’s a rather unproductive and childish move to harp on someone for making uneducated comments simply because they’re uninformed. The internet was not always a harmful place where people feared to be wrong or voice opinions — in fact, its initial purpose was to educate, but cancel culture on social media has corrupted that.

So, how should the internet move past such malevolent tendencies? It would clearly take a collaborative effort, but the number one solution would focus on altering the way people respond to each other.

What I mean by this is simple: Instead of responding to Gabby Douglas’ comments with nasty comebacks intertwined with malicious threats to her career, reply with a gentler intent. The main theme at hand is learning to politely educate those around you, given that they’re interested in learning what they did wrong.

The knowledge you personally hold is unique to every other person online. If an individual posts something of a controversial nature (Emma Watson’s scandal regarding her inability to include women of color in her definition of feminism, for example), it is far more productive to reply with that knowledge, experience and kindness.

At the same time, that very relationship needs to be a two-way street. The person on the opposite end needs to be willing to learn and educate themselves in order to understand the fault at hand. It’s not so much about admitting to saying something wrong and issuing out a generic apology. Having a mutually beneficial relationship involving learning why a certain claim was so offensive — and bothering to even understand the mistake in the first place — is a massive piece of the solution.

Above anything, it’s crucial to understand that everything is a spectrum. No matter what, people are going to have various opinions, so deciding to cancel someone because of ignorance or unconventional thinking is unfair. People make mistakes. Not everyone has the wisdom you do.

But at the end of the day, remember one thing: Sexual abusers should always get #canceled.

Melissa Lee, State University of New York at Oswego

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Melissa Lee

SUNY Oswego

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