Cancel Culture - Is It Fair?

“They’re canceled.” 

A few years ago, the word “cancel” meant nothing more than the standard dictionary definition that people are most familiar with: to make something void or invalid, such as in the case of an agreement or event. But social media and pop culture have completely transformed the way we use certain terms, and “cancel” is probably one of the best examples yet. What was once an unassuming word has become one of the driving forces behind controversies, apologies, witch hunts, and more. The necessity of such forced reactions can be questionable at times, but the undeniable truth is that “cancel culture” is very real, influential, and, at times, unforgiving.

Anyone active on Twitter or familiar with fandoms is likely to have come across news about a “canceled” person at least once. The reasons for their dramatic fall from grace can range from distasteful past tweets to problematic actions. Some may have a whole plethora of dirty laundry uncovered at once, in which case a mere “I’m so sorry!” may not suffice. Regardless of how serious the problem is, netizens have become obsessed with using anything remotely incriminating to permanently exile celebrities and average Joes alike. Of course, many of these instances are justifiable -- there is a surprising number of people who refuse to learn from their mistakes and are unwilling to better themselves -- but a considerable amount also consists of individuals who committed these "offenses" due to a lack of understanding. Not everyone can be up-to-date with the latest news, and not everyone starts off with the degree of cultural awareness that is now considered standard. 

Photo by Pixelkult

Yes, I am fully aware that miseducation can never be an acceptable excuse for extremely offensive situations, but there is a need to address the modern internet user’s almost hell-bent desire to call out someone and push them to a point where they cannot respond at all. This toxic behavior gives the “canceled” person no opportunity to ask for forgiveness, let alone put out an explanation (though whether or not the latter is necessary somewhat depends on the severity of their faults). Is it fair to banish someone so quickly? If the internet actually made an effort to civilly educate the person in question but was met with an unwilling response, then perhaps it is alright to say that they are deserving of being “canceled.” Likewise, someone who has consistently shown genuine remorse should be given a second chance to redeem themselves and prove that they have matured from that point in their life. A direct apology that clearly addresses all the points that they were criticized for can be a demonstration of their sincere attitude. Those who take the time to learn (and not just to avoid being “canceled”) have a right to make things better. Naturally, the only exception to this rule are people like sexual abusers. 

As human beings, we are always learning and growing. Everything from the books we read to the people we interact with teaches us new things, and the person you are today is vastly different from the person you were just a few months ago. The internet has created a suffocating cycle of ostracizing people over the smallest mistakes when in reality we should be using these communication platforms to enlighten each other. Like anything in the world, “cancel culture” has its own share of ups and downs -- it is up to us to enforce these “cancellations” in a just manner.