Cancel culture is a highly-charged idea which often surrounds public figures. It appears as if one day, a celebrity may be idolized and placed on a pedestal, only to be “cancelled” just as quickly. But what exactly is cancel culture, and why is it so detrimental?
The answer lies in the word itself. Cancel, according to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, is defined as: “ to destroy the force, effectiveness, or validity of.” Although historically this word was solely applicable to objects and abstract ideals, it has since been adapted to fit people as well. In the event that a public figure slips up or makes an err in judgement, online users will swiftly “cancel” them. By rousing the public against them, individuals in the public sphere are often boycotted incessantly. Essentially, this means virtually terminating their career, along with any respectability in the public eye.
It is vital to acknowledge that oftentimes there is a valid reason for a person’s “cancellation.” Certain celebrities have made egregious blunders pertaining to race, religion, and other serious matters. It is essential that these mistakes are rectified as to not open the door to further abuses of power. Public figures carry immense influence upon society, particularly the youth. Therefore, an error on their part may catalyze a dangerous societal trend.
With that being said, the societal means of tasking individuals for their mistakes is inherently flawed. The overall mob mentality that has developed is antithetical to general principles. In fact, today’s cancel culture can even be linked to the Socratic ideology of “tyranny of the majority.” Socrates feared that a group of people’s unity against one individual would certainly lead to negative repercussions.
What are the potential repercussions as a result of today’s cancel culture? They are certainly apparent. The idea that someone’s entire future can be ceased after one lapse in judgement is extremely problematic.
Firstly, it completely removes the focus from one’s self, resulting in a lack of introspection. When people are constantly “cancelling” others, they are too busy honing in on the mistakes of others rather than their own. This may result in a subconscious superiority complex where individuals are unable to find fault with themselves. Is shaming others to prove a point worth it if it comes at the cost of personal development?
Additionally, if someone is completely shut down following a mistake, there is little explanation as to why they were wrong in the first place. What is preventing them from repeating the same mistake if it was never rectified from the beginning? However, if people are given a chance to explore the breadth of their errors, it ultimately allows for greater growth.
Cancel culture also proliferates the idea that there is never room for mistakes. Today’s youth are led to believe that there is no grey area — either people are perfect or faulty, never in between. The reality is that every individual is “in between” as they juggle the constant undulations of life.
The idea of a “growth mindset” is one that is gaining increasing popularity in leadership development and beyond. However, cancel culture is the absolute antithesis of this ideal. Rather than allowing people to learn and grow from their mistakes, cancel culture guarantees that people remain stagnant in a “fixed mindset.” If this “fixed mindset” generated by cancel culture remains, people may become rigid in other facets of life, inhibiting their overall character development.
Yes, people must be taken to account for their mistakes. However, it is key that this be done through the proper means. Let’s allow people to make long-term change rather than causing long-term damage. Let’s cancel “cancel culture,” once and for all.