Imagine waking up to find that your friends have “canceled” you. They’ve unfollowed you on social media, they ignore you at school, and students who don’t even know you think you’re a bad person. Worst of all, you may never be able to redeem yourself. Just imagining this scenario is gut-wrenching. That’s why I think that, as a punishment, cancel culture is just too extreme.
In theory, the point of canceling someone is to call attention to offensive actions and punish people for doing or saying something unacceptable. The problem is, canceling denies the person a chance to share their side of the story and explain what happened.
Worse, people who get canceled have no opportunity to learn from their mistakes and correct their behavior. Instead of creating a dialogue to help the person understand how their actions hurt others, canceling literally shuts down all possibilities of communication. How can you apologize or show that you understand what you did wrong if you’ve been blocked on everyone’s social media and no one will talk to you anymore?
Another problem with cancel culture is that it has become so common, people now use it without any intention of bringing about social change. Instead, it has become a way to launch a social attack on a person, sometimes for very little cause. People search for a reason to cancel each other. For example, in my grade, you can be canceled for posting something to Instagram that your classmates simply don’t agree with, like saying you like a certain band or even a certain type of food. Your classmates might say the cancellation is just a joke, but it still feels horrible when it happens to you. In this way, canceling can feel a lot like plain old bullying.
When a celebrity does something truly awful, being canceled by their fans might be an appropriate response, because the good of the awareness the cancellation raises around an important issue may outweigh the negative repercussions of being canceled for the celebrity. But for students still learning from their experiences, our first instinct should be to talk to each other one-on-one. I’m not against holding people accountable for their actions, but I support giving my peers a second chance.