Stop the urge to cancel others

Britney Smookler, Guest Column

One day you wake up and look at your phone to suddenly see thousands of verbal attacks about something you did or said. Social media allows people to publicly shame others — mainly celebrities and public figures — for unfavorable behavior with no repercussions. It takes just minutes and is without human interaction. Cancel culture has become a serious issue that not only affects our mental health, but builds toxic traits that block us from moving forward and becoming better people.

Engaging in mass shaming to express disapproval and exert social pressure is out of control. Canceling has become collective bullying where individuals involved make cruel comments to a victim, including unacceptable statements about their character — and even death threats.

No matter who you are, when you face a bunch of nasty comments, it feels as if the whole world is against you. Research from Stopbullying indicates that cyberbullying victimization has been associated with increased depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation. Cancel culture has become harmful to the mental health of those canceled and, simultaneously, it has created the toxic characteristic of unforgiveness within those who participate in canceling.

According to a national poll commissioned by Times Opinion and Siena College, about a third of young adults admitted that they harshly criticized someone because of something that person said. When people hear things they do not like or agree with, they jump to conclusions about the speaker and leave no room for the person to grow and learn. This creates an environment that denies the opportunity for those who made a mistake to correct their behavior. Furthermore, it creates an environment where people are afraid to speak up about what they believe because they are fearful of becoming the next person canceled.

There have been several instances in which people who stand up for what they believe have been quickly shunned. For instance, when ex-football star Colin Kaepernick took a knee before a game to stand for the movement addressing the social injustices and oppression Black people face in America, he was canceled. This resulted in him losing a career in the sport he trained for his whole life. Fans of Kaepernick became his cancelers, all because they defined him based on something they did not agree with and they were not willing to try to understand.

 Cancel culture has caused us to become less understanding and if we cannot be understanding, then we will be afraid to share our points of view.

We have been ignoring the harmful effects that cancel culture has on us and the toxicity it has brought to us. When a child makes a mistake, they are given the opportunity to apologize, make amends and use their mistake as a way to learn and grow. We should not deny that same opportunity to adults.

As former President Barack Obama once said: “The world is messy, there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.”

Do not allow cancel culture to block you from being open to forgiveness and to the possibility that people can change and grow. Mistakes should not be seen as an opportunity for punishment, but as an opportunity for growth.