Cancel Culture: How It's Hurting Society
You should google it.
Sounds kind of scary right?
Imagine living in a world where paths to redemption and forgiveness were thwarted by one single hashtag. Cancel culture is the somewhat recent phenomenon that is said to have originated on Black Twitter. It is the act of "cancelling" or no longer morally, financially, and/or digitally supporting people—usually celebrities—events, art works such as songs, films or TV shows, or things that many have deemed unacceptable or problematic.
What does this mean and why does it matter?
Well, with the influx of social media and the information age,it is increasingly easier to disengage with people and ideas that we think are not worthy of our time. Tired of hearing about deportations along the border? Just unfollow that one friend who tweets too many political article links. Drained by your high school friend’s obsession with Kanye West? Nothing a quick unfriend can’t fix. Right?
Society has catapulted into a new, and somewhat insidious realm, in which people can passively avoid much needed discussions with pretty much everyone. The effects of this method of communication, or lack thereof, manifest in deeply rooted behavioral trends that warp general mentalities of trust, control, and respect in various types of relationships (i.e professional, personal). Cancel culture is just a more grandiose and public excuse used to ignore the core causes of our discomfort. And the worst part is that, despite its popularity, it has proven to be ineffective!
Taylor Swift, Kanye West, The Grammys, R. Kelly. Afropunk.
These are just a few examples of celebrities and high-profile events that have been “cancelled” but still maintain stable, if not increased, dominance in pop-culture as a result of their public shamings. When you publicly cancel a person and hold an internet party celebrating their dismissal from all things good, you inadvertently give attention to that individual instead of the underlying cause of their ‘unacceptable’ behavior. Cancellations of Taylor Swift for problematic music videos overshadowed the opportunity to have discourse on cultural appropriation and white femininity in the music industry. The public shaming of Kanye West after his slavery comment blunder deterred fruitful discussions on mental illness in the Black community and the psychological effects of racist legacies in America. furthermore, it overshadowed his subsequent explanations and apologies. now, Raise your hand if you watched the Grammys.
I rest my case. It is nearly impossible to just go ghost on issues that permeate societal functions on a daily basis.
Essentially, cancel culture is myth of active moral authority that many latch onto to feel a sense of control and “rightness” in varying situations without seeking true accountability. When we cancel celebrities, it can seem like something entirely different from invalidating our friends and loved ones who have made mistakes. But soon, these virtual illusions of cancellation and dismissal transcend into the real world and inhibit healthy communication with those who have caused offense or hurt in our lives. This can manifest in quickly dissolved connections, an inability to converse with people who do not agree with you, and a decrease in empathy and other permutations of emotional intelligence.
This is not a call to lovingly accept abusive behavior, racists, and all the evils of the world. You still have to protect your energy. But that protection of your vibes and thoughts also means directly working towards solutions and interrogating the “why” of the matters you care about. Imagine how much positive change we could bring to our ever-evolving world if we invested our energy in dismantling the systems and rewriting the beliefs that have stagnated our collective progress instead of casting stones on people who are just as human, and prone to mistakes, as we all are.
Worried cancel culture may be impacting your interpersonal communication? Don’t be! That just means that you have taken this opportunity to self-reflect and interrogate your behaviors, beliefs, and actions.
And that is absolutely beautiful.
Life is about growth and taking active steps to be the best possible version of yourself. We are all worthy of learning new ways to do that.
Here are some practices you can incorporate into your daily communication to forge healthier relationships and have more meaningful conversations about the issues that matter most to you.
1. trust intent, name/own impact
Trust that people mean well, but still communicate the negative impact of their words or actions if they have affected you. This means you are letting go of preemptive conclusions you may have conjured in your head after an incident. Instead, you are trusting that, when you bring up your hurt feelings in a healthy way and say what you mean, the other person is doing so as well. On the other side of the coin, if you have caused hurt or offense with your words and/or actions, you have a responsibility as well. It is your responsibility to listen to the effects you have had on others, express your intentions if they were different from the outcome, own the negative impact you had (no gaslighting allowed), and map out ways to better in the future. You have to trust that the people holding you accountable in your life are doing so because they love you and are active supporters of your growth & development into the best version of yourself :)
2. listen to learn, not just to respond
Listening to learn means practicing active listening. That means you are engaged and concentrated on what the other person is saying. Active listening is the opposite of passively hearing someone. It means that you are present and involved in the conversation, not internally focused on crafting your response in your head. You will actually be better equipped to process what the other person is saying and, thus, have an informed response in the end.
3. make your criticism constructive not personal
I look at this as tackling the idea, the ideology, not the person. Before you offer a critique in any situation, pause. Then ask yourself, am I saying this because I want to solve a problem or because I want to tear someone/something down? Be intentional & mindful in your critiques so that you can encourage progress not stagnation.
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If this topic sparked your interest, check out The Vanguard’s cancel culture episode. The Vanguard is a podcast in which my co-host, Chukwudi Nwamba, and I explore topics within the realm of culture, education, entrepreneurship, and policy as they pertain to Black communities around the world. You can follow The Vanguard on instagram to stay up to date on new episodes and upcoming projects!