Have you ever found yourself entangled in the cancel culture whirlwind, either as a target or participant? If you were the target, your actions might have been a minor infraction, severe, or possibly innocent but misinterpreted by others. So, is cancel culture good or bad? In this article, I’ll share with you my analysis of the pros and cons of cancel culture, discussing 7 benefits and 12 drawbacks. While the negative aspects of cancel culture are indeed troubling, can we find ways to counteract them? I believe the answer is “yes”. Hence, I’ll outline 4 practical steps that each of us can take to hold people accountable and still prevent the toxic side of cancel culture from flourishing.
Understanding How Cancel Culture Came To Be: From Public Shaming To Social Media.
Most, if not all, societies have used a social practice like “cancel culture” as a way to enforce social norms. For example, public shaming, usually done in small communities, is very similar to cancel culture. So, for the purposes of this article, here is a definition of cancel culture.
“the phenomenon or practice of publicly rejecting, boycotting, or ending support for particular people or groups because of their socially or morally unacceptable views or actions”Dictionary
As the definition describes above, cancel culture takes swift and concrete action against the offending person or group. In its purest form, cancel culture is an act of swift judgment and punishment. In most cases, there is no “calling out” or a process of discovery, deliberation, or leeway for redemption. Also, people have just in recent years used the term “cancel culture”, but in the past societies just called this social practice a different name. To detail, below are several examples of the social practice of cancel culture.
Examples Of Cancel Culture And Public Shaming
1. Public Shaming, The Orginal “Cancel Culture”.
Most societies have used public shaming as part of their social norm and even part of their legal system. For example, stocks and public restraints were used in medieval Europe. Also, in Colonial America Puritans used stocks to punish criminals. Also, early Americans used tarring and feathering to keep people in line. Lastly, during World War II, French women who were deemed collaborators had their heads shaved.
2. The MeToo Movement.
This movement, akin to cancel culture, was instrumental in holding powerful individuals accountable for their misconduct. For instance, the #MeToo movement exposed numerous cases of sexual harassment and assault. Indeed, this led to the downfall of influential figures like Harvey Weinstein.
3. The Woke Movement.
Activists started the woke movement to alert the public to racial and social inequalities. By activists or anyone publicizing a contemptible act they would help squash perpetual systemic injustices. An example would be when companies face backlash for culturally insensitive advertisements or products.
4. Social Media’s Role in Amplifying Voices.
Social media platforms play a key role in amplifing the voices of those advocating for canceling individuals or entities. For instance, hashtags like #CancelCulture have trended on Twitter, allowing users to express their opinions and rally support for boycotting certain figures or brands.
5. Mob Mentality and Its Effects on Cancel Culture.
The act of canceling someone or something in itself is a public message to reach the maximum number of people. As a result, this can sometimes lead to mob mentality, where people join in without fully understanding the context or consequences. An example would be when a public figure faces severe backlash based on a misinterpreted statement, resulting in career damage or personal attacks.
Is Cancel Culture Good – Pros.
Yes, cancel culture is good in that it can achieve positive results when there are no other means available. Take the MeToo movement as an example. Absolutely, societies have used this social practice effectively in the past, and I would suspect it will continue for good causes in future. Now at the same time, there are many cons to cancel culture that will be discussed later in this article. So here are 7 pros to why cancel culture is good.
1. Holds People Accountable.
In regard to criminal behavior, ideally the justice system will hold people accountable for their actions. However, that does not always happen. Also, sometimes there may be a particular offense against society that is not codified as unlawful. Thus, this is where cancel culture offers a solution to hold individuals accountable for their actions. For example, when a celebrity makes offensive remarks, public backlash and boycotts can lead to a decline in their career.
3. Prevents Toxic Behavior.
Cancel culture discourages toxic behavior by creating a fear of public backlash. As a result, this can lead to individuals reconsidering their actions and words before engaging in harmful behavior.
4. Empowers Marginalized Voices.
Cancel culture amplifies the voices of marginalized communities. This allow them to share their experiences and demand change. Further, cancel culture provides a platform for marginalized communities to challenge and hold powerful individuals or institutions accountable. For instance, the #MeToo movement empowered survivors of sexual harassment to speak out against influential figures in various industries. Additionally, cancel culture empowers disenfranchised people to shed light on systemic racism and demand justice.
5. Encourages Corporate Social Responsibility.
Cancel culture encourages companies to be socially responsible by holding them accountable for unethical practices. When consumers boycott brands that engage in exploitative labor or environmental harm, it forces companies to reassess their actions.
6. Increases Public Awareness of Social Issues.
Cancel culture brings attention to social issues that may have otherwise been overlooked or ignored. Hence, through public discussions and debates, it raises awareness about topics such as racism, sexism, and discrimination.
7. Sparks Self-reflection About Social Issues.
Cancel culture prompts individuals to reflect on their own beliefs and behaviors regarding social issues. Further, it encourages self-awareness and growth by challenging societal norms and biases.
So, is cancel culture good? Well, these 7 cancel culture pros build a powerful case for cancel culture.
Is Cancel Culture Good – Cons.
On the other hand, there are many cons to cancel culture due to its toxic effects. So, there is a strong argument against calling cancel culture good. In fact, if cancel culture is left unchecked, its excesses cannot only do permanent harm to those being “canceled”, but also to society itself. So for all of us, it is very important to know both the pros and cons of cancel culture. Only then can we identify ways that we can maximize the benefits of cancel culture and minimize the negative effects of cancel culture. To detail, below are 12 cons to why cancel culture is not good in many situations.
1. Promotes a “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” Environment.
Cancel culture can create an environment where individuals are immediately judged and condemned without due process or evidence, potentially leading to unfair consequences. For instance, false accusations on social media can ruin someone’s reputation before the accused has a chance to defend themselves.
2. Can Result in Online Harassment and Mob Mentality.
Cancel culture often leads to online harassment, cyberbullying, and the formation of online mobs that target individuals. Indeed, this can have severe psychological and emotional impacts on the person being canceled. Examples include the relentless online attacks faced by public figures who have made controversial statements.
3. Provides No Leeway for Redemption and Growth Opportunities.
Cancel culture tends to offer little room for “canceled” individuals to learn from their mistakes, grow, and make amends.
4. Causes Permanent Damage to Reputations.
Cancel culture has the potential to permanently damage an individual’s reputation. Alas, these damages can be permanent even if the individual has sincerely apologized or changed their views. As a result, this can affect their personal and professional life for years to come.
5. Disregards Context and Intent.
Cancel culture often fails to consider the context or intent behind someone’s actions or statements, leading to unfair judgments. It overlooks nuances and treats every situation as black and white. Thus, disregarding the complexity of human behavior.
6. Harms Mental Health and Well-being.
The intense scrutiny, public shaming, and constant fear of being canceled can have detrimental effects on an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. This is particularly true for those who face relentless online harassment.
7. Undermines Democracy and Debate.
Cancel culture discourages open dialogue, debate, and the exchange of ideas by silencing opposing viewpoints. In particular, it can create an environment where people are afraid to express their opinions. Thus, this can lead to a lack of diversity in thought and stifling democratic principles.
8. Stifles Freedom of Speech.
Cancel culture can be seen as a threat to freedom of speech. This is because it creates an environment where individuals fear expressing their opinions or engaging in controversial discussions due to potential backlash or cancellation.
9. Creates Societal Polarization.
Cancel culture often leads to the division and polarization of society. As a result of polarization, people become entrenched in their beliefs and refuse to engage with opposing viewpoints. Thus, “echo chambers” are created hindering progress and understanding within society.
10. Can Result in Guilt by Association.
Cancel culture sometimes targets individuals based on their associations or connections rather than their own actions. Hence, this guilt by association can lead to unfair consequences for individuals who may not have engaged in any harmful behavior themselves.
11. Can Be Misused for Personal Agendas.
Cancel culture can be misused as a tool for personal vendettas or to settle scores, rather than for genuine accountability or social justice.
12. Facilitates Power Abuse.
Cancel culture can be exploited by those in positions of power to silence dissenting voices or manipulate public opinion for personal gain or control.
Practical Ways To Mitigate The Toxic Effects Of Cancel Culture.
1. First, Distinguish Whether It Is Criminal, Unsavory Behavior, or Unfounded.
First, every act or viewpoint that we deem unacceptable may not seem what it seems. Further, every unacceptable act does not necessarily need the same degree of cancellation as others. So before participating in cancel culture, first identify the nature of the unacceptable act. Hence, I recommend that you first identify whether the act or viewpoint is 1) criminal behavior, 2) an unsavory action, or 3) just unfounded accusations. By carefully examining the evidence and determining the nature of the act, we can ensure that we respond in the appropriate manner that meets the situation. Indeed, by making this determination you can personally decide what to do, instead of following the crowd.
2. Ascertain That You Are Not Being Intolerant of Free Speech or Dialog.
While addressing harmful behavior is important, it is equally vital to ensure that cancel culture does not become a tool for suppressing free speech or stifling open dialogue. So, to mitigate the toxic effects we must be mindful of allowing diverse perspectives and engaging in respectful conversations. For instance, instead of immediately canceling someone for expressing an unpopular opinion, we could encourage constructive debates to promote understanding. Again, the crowd is not always right and it is best to not adopt a mob mentality when deciding to cancel someone.
3. Determine Which Is Best: Cancel, Hold Accountable, or Both.
To effectively mitigate the toxic effects of cancel culture, it is essential to determine when it is appropriate to cancel someone entirely or hold them accountable. In the case of accountability, you are able to still hold them responsible while allowing them space for growth and redemption. Indeed, cancel culture and the act of canceling is both judgment and punishment. So, cancelling someone is not your only choice when someone does something offensive. Indeed, you do have a choice between cancelling and holding accountable.
So, evaluate each situation separately based on the severity of the offense and the individual’s willingness to learn from their mistakes. For example, take the situation where a public figure has made offensive remarks in the past but has since shown genuine remorse and actively worked towards change. In this case, it may be more appropriate for you to focus on holding them accountable rather than completely canceling them.
4. Set Your Boundaries on Social Media.
One practical way to mitigate the toxic effects of cancel culture is by setting boundaries on social media platforms. Indeed, social media is the greatest facilitator for cancel culture, good or bad. So, both social media organizations and their users have an inherent responsibility to promote healthy online discussions and discourage cyber-bullying or harassment. Further, these platforms can implement policies that encourage respectful engagement and provide mechanisms for reporting abusive behavior. For instance, social media platforms can introduce features that prompt users to think twice before posting hurtful comments and provide resources for conflict resolution. Even if the social media platform does not have stringent policies, users can still set their own boundaries to minimize the toxic effects of cancel culture.
By implementing these practical measures, we can work towards mitigating the toxic effects of cancel culture and fostering a more balanced and constructive approach to accountability. Indeed, it is crucial to strike a balance between holding individuals accountable for their actions and allowing room for growth and redemption.
For more resources on the question of is cancel culture good, see AntiMaximalist’s Is Cancel Culture Good or Bad? The Pros and Cons, VeryWellMind’s The Mental Health Effects of Cancel Culture, ProCon’s Cancel Culture – Top 3 Pros and Cons, and Insider’s Why cancel culture is so toxic and how to effectively hold folks accountable, according to social media experts.
Writer and Supply Chain Tech Expert. Passionate about giving actionable insights on information technology, business, innovation, creativity, and life in general.