What is Cancel Culture?
Cancel culture is a popular trend/practice all over different social media platforms (for me, specifically, it's TikTok and Twitter) to stop supporting (cancel) public figures after they've said or done something offensive and/or inappropriate. The idea of it makes sense, especially if most of these public figures are adults and should know better. But, to me, it's getting out of hand.
It's justified bullying.
Hear me out. Many of the public figures that are getting cancelled that I see are about my age (18), some of them are even younger. This generation has the highest amount of mental health issues compared to older generations. Cancelling someone and constantly attacking them for their mistake can take a huge toll on their mental health. The worst part about cancel culture is that it instills fear onto these people, rather than properly educating them on why what they did was so wrong.
In the words of Garnett Achieng, a writer for the Women's Media Center, "[cancel] culture often seems to diverge from its supposed intention of holding people accountable into a justification to insult and demean people. When someone on social media makes a mistake, they are often then not only denounced for that action, but deemed completely unworthy as a person." According to Achieng, cancel culture allows others to virtually attack a public figure for their public mistake. It does not educate the person on their wrongdoings, as many claim cancelling can do. In sum, then, the issue is whether cancelling someone does what it's meant to, which is to educate someone on the issue behind their wrongdoings, or if it just allows other people to bully them just because they didn't know any better from the start.
I believe that while the idea of cancelling can be effective, the common execution of the trend is just as problematic as the initial mistake done by whoever is being cancelled. It forces many into fear of making more mistakes and getting attacked for them as well.
There's no need to bring up the past.
As humans, we all make mistakes. People grow. From my experience, I've said some pretty insensitive things about certain societal groups because I simply didn't know any better. I can admit that because I now know the extremities to saying such things. It wasn't until I learned about the meaning and the history of certain words and phrases that I stopped, and that's all it takes for many people. Some of these creators getting cancelled are way younger than I am, and I can guarantee that at their age, I was doing and saying some really stupid things. I bet that the same people cancelling them have also done and said inappropriate and offensive things before.
A few famous TikTokers that were also famous on Musical.ly, the famous social media app prior to TikTok, used to lip-sync songs containing the n-word, which is a derogatory term towards the Black community. Mind you, this happened over SIX years ago when back then, saying the n-word was more normalized, even though it wasn't right. However, society has changed since then and the general population started to recognize the word as racist and degrading towards the Black community. These famous TikTokers have already apologized for their actions and yet, these old videos continue to resurface and get an abundance of hate, as if there's no such thing as behavioral growth.
Bringing up the past constantly after the issue has been addressed leaves no room for that person to move on from their mistake. In an article on Huff Post by Robert Leahy, PhD., "research shows that people who ruminate are more likely to get depressed and stay depressed." In other words, rumination, which is the constant dwelling on past mistakes, can greatly affect one's mental health. For many of these celebrities, they're still young. Mental health issues are a growing problem in this generation and with cancellation being a popular trend, especially towards young celebrities, it can only get worse.
But they're influencers and have a young audience. They need to set a good example to their followers. They should know better.
Yes, I completely agree with that. They should be setting a good example to their followers. However, the idea that big name creators don't make any mistakes itself isn't ideal either. I'll say it again: no human is perfect. To think otherwise is very unhealthy, especially for easily influenced children. Without showing children that people can make mistakes and learn from them, children can live in fear of making mistakes–also known as perfectionism. And from perfectionism, a variety of mental health issues will soon follow.
So, what should we do instead?
Instead of cancellation, there's something known as educating. Of course, there will be people that do not care if they are being cancelled and may never learn from their mistakes. But continuously cancelling the select few that don't care is simply feeding into their popularity and fame. It's not the "right kind" of fame, but it's still fame; they're still getting paid from the comments and likes. For the majority that do care about their actions and their audience, just calling out what they've done wrong once is enough and giving a proper explanation about the severity of their mistake is enough. Once they've addressed it and apologized for it, then that's all that's necessary. There is absolutely no need to bring it up again and rub it in their faces about what they did that was so wrong.
In the end, we need to recognize that as people, we all make mistakes. None of us would ever want to be reminded of our past wrongdoings and we definitely do not want to be attacked for them. These creators are just as human as we are; they have feelings too. I don't mean to sound cheesy, but we need to spread positivity, not hate. We need to understand that people can learn and grow from the past.