Over the last few years, ‘canceling’ people has become a fad. Under the stress of a pandemic, stuck at home with our phones as our main connection to the outer world, exploiting even the smallest faults of those with large platforms has become an easy habit. Some of these “cancelled” celebrities, companies, etc. deserve the new light shed on their actions so that they have an opportunity to change for the better, while others are made to suffer at the words of people seeking somewhere to direct their anger onto. As an anthropology minor, I have decided to offer my thoughts on cancel culture. If you are unfamiliar with the area of study, anthropology is the study of humans and culture. One of the first things we learn in the Anthopology community is that it is necessary to have an open mind and allow yourself to think differently about what you know, i.e. what your culture has taught you.
These days, no one can escape cancel culture, myself included. I was listening to a podcast about it one day, and the next, it was a topic of conversation on the radio show playing in my car. They both came to the same conclusion: they don’t understand it. Cancel culture is a thread of hypocritical (in my opinion) actions taken against someone for making sometimes the smallest mistake. One of the most popular forms of punishment aimed at among cancel culture advocates is to get people fired from their jobs, even if their percieved wrongdoing doesn’t relate to their workplace. The podcast I listened explained how one man’s critical tweet about another twitter user led to latter getting fired. The podcast spoke to the initial instigator and found that he didn’t mean for the other user to get fired and actually felt that the other person didn’t deserve that intense of a punishment. He felt that the the reaction to his tweet caused an uncontrollable uproar from internet users who took their vitriol too far.
Another problematic aspect of cancel culture is that people with with a large platform are being urged, and even sent death threats, if they do not speak up about a certain topic, whether it be Black Lives Matter, human trafficking, immigration etc. but then being punished if they do so “incorrectly,” or at a later time than was desired by audiences. I believe that using one’s platform is the right thing to do, but the negative reaction other celebrities and influencers have recieved when they speak up in a way that falls short of expectation may be causing people a fear of speaking up. I believe this is not good practice. Something I don’t think a lot of people realize is that even if the celebrities tweet/post themselves, their accounts are almost always being managed by someone else trained in Public Relations. For example, I follow 5 Seconds of Summer and love them to death. When allegations of sexual assault surfaced on twitter, their profiles were silent until a few days later, when they tweeted “We are posting this against the advice of our team.” This reveals what fans already should have known: that there are more people behind the 5 Seconds of Summer Twitter account. We should not be quick to anger, harrassing people we do not know and sending death threats, when we don’t have our way with the response time on issues such as this. We must allow ourselves to see the bigger picture before we react. Demanding something being said and then getting angry when it is said too late has to stop.
Canceling people and building an army to hate on someone for the smallest things has to stop. People make mistakes; that is something we all learn in kindergarten. No one is obligated to forgive celebrities or influencers, but be mindful. We are losing ourselves in anger over situations that often have nothing to do with us. Righteous anger when something isn’t right and fighting for your voice to be heard is valid and justified, but we should be careful to vet our hatred toward other people, and avoid it as much as possible because no one is perfect. Don’t let yourself get caught in the nasty cycle of social media’s instant gratification. Holding powerful people accountable does not mean we should resort to sending them hate online. As my idol Harry Styles would say, treat people with kindness. Make sure to always have an open mind.