Cancel Culture Has Twisted, but there’s a Way to Fix it

Photo Credit: Divakshi Palkar

This story was originally published in the GenZeal feature of LNP on Sunday, March 3, 2024

By Logan Farmer ‘24

Before the cancel culture movement, a 2015 survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center found that 34% of teenagers between the ages of 11 and 15 had been a victim of cyberbullying at some point.

In 2022, after years of rising cancel culture, a Pew Research Center survey found that “nearly half of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 (46%) report ever experiencing at least one of six cyberbullying behaviors.”

Canceling is meant to hold people accountable but, in reality, it is just an excuse to bully.

Merriam-Webster describes this new form of “canceling” as removing support for public figures in response to their objectionable behavior or opinions.

This is what canceling may have been at first, as Loretta J. Ross, a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, explained in a New York Times article. “I have no problem calling out politicians who aren’t living up to the oaths they swore to,” she said.

So canceling was originally meant to hold people accountable and enact positive change. However, it evolved into power-hungry individuals canceling opponents for petty reasons.

The headline of a 2020 CNN analysis states: “Cancel culture is about power — who has it and who wants to be heard.”

The issue with this is that, even within cancel culture, it’s still the people with power who have the voice.

While some argue that canceling still has its original value, that isn’t the case. It has been twisted into bullying.

Being called out can “alienate” people, Ross told The New York Times.

That newspaper reported on a Nebraska student who said she was fearful that someone would discover she liked Harry Potter books as a kid, because author J.K. Rowling has been canceled.

Canceling has been turned into a weapon against people who we disagree with. While some of those people are wrong, others should not have to dislike their favorite book series or song because the creator is canceled.

Ross has a solution. She believes in “calling in.” She describes it as, “Calling out, but done with love.”

This requires talking to someone privately and respectfully so that they realize what they said or did is wrong. It also entails making sure they know you are giving them the chance to change.

People are less likely to change if they are canceled or shunned. Ross told The New York Times: “Some people you can work with and some people you can work around.”

Not everybody will change, even if they’re “called in.” This, however, does not mean that we should cancel them. We should distance ourselves from people we may not agree with and move on. Because, in the end, we can’t force them to change.

In the beginning, canceling may have been meant to encourage accountability. Now it has turned into bullying — bullying those with less power, those with differing opinions and even those we label as bullies.

We need to follow the example set by Ross and call people in, instead of calling them out.


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