A graphic illustration demonstrating the hub of cancel culture: the internet. (Photo Anna Woodward)
A graphic illustration demonstrating the hub of cancel culture: the internet.

Photo Anna Woodward

Correction: the alternative to cancel culture

Cancel culture has gone too far

December 14, 2020

“You’re canceled.” The phrase has become as normal as “LOL” on the internet, prevalent enough that Time and The New York Times have even reported on it. “Cancel culture,” in theory, is taking away someone’s platform after an accusation. It takes away a questionable or ignorant voice and claims to punish the perpetrator. However, cancel culture lacks a crucial long-term impact: a person’s ability to learn from their mistakes.

Cancel culture is the equivalent of a time out. A person makes a mistake, they’re in trouble, and most of the time, they don’t even lose their platform. Considering that many “canceled” people are celebrities, canceling rarely does anything to their career. The cycle continues, and people never seem to learn. Granted, it depends on the individual willingness to be held accountable, but the toxicity of cancel culture has contradicted itself. Instead of canceling, we should be focused on educating.

This is not directed at full-grown adults who make bigoted and ignorant remarks. But children—especially those who are still coming of age—are bound to make mistakes. Does that mean they should keep making those mistakes? Not at all. But ostracizing a teenager and ignoring the chance to correct them does no good.

TikTok seems to be the biggest source of cancel culture. Millions of users and the ability to post essentially whatever you want will lead to people taking that for granted. I can not tell you how many times I have seen a random person get canceled as soon as one of their videos blows up, and someone finds something wrong with it.

I’ve seen people on TikTok using insensitive phrases, and the polarization in reactions clearly supports my point of education over alienation. Telling someone, “Hey, I don’t know if you realized this, but ‘x statement’ is actually offensive, because…” is often met with “I’m sorry, I didn’t know, thank you for telling me!” On the other hand, a simple “I can’t believe you said that you’re # canceled, I’m reporting you,” and the mob mentality of cancel culture leaves the subject without a means to correct themselves.

One of the reasons why so many may hesitate to try and educate is because it can come across as tolerating said mistakes. While there are many things that should be called out and reported, many people may genuinely not know what they did wrong when it comes to more uncommon actions. There’s a difference between supporting something and trying to prevent it.

Just because you try to correct an individual does not mean that you support the behavior. It means that you’re trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again because the individual—hopefully—now knows better, something that cancel culture often overlooks.

Oftentimes, cancel culture can even go as far as “doxxing” a person. This means to release their personal information—usually their school or address—in response to “cancelable” behaviors. A 14 or 15-year-old should not fear for their physical safety, especially when some people associated with cancel culture won’t hesitate to take online interactions outside the screen.

An impressionable and developing person will not learn from their mistakes if they are ostracized, especially if their behavior stems from a home environment. It’s trapping and defeats the purpose of cancel culture.

There is no reason to give an ignorant adult a platform. Children and teenagers, on the other hand, need to be educated instead of alienated. The whole point of growing up is that people learn what to do and what not to do. I’m not saying to condone bigoted behaviors, but it’s more effective to correct than cancel.

Cancel culture aims to take away the voice of those who make mistakes. Sometimes it’s effective and makes the internet a safer place. Simultaneously, it hypocritically condones another cancel-worthy behavior: prohibiting people from acknowledging and learning from their mistakes.

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