by Valerie Hooser
‘It is a confusing game to play’
The untamed world of cancel culture can seem new and confusing, so here it is broken down piece by piece.
“Cancel culture,” as a concept, has been gaining popularity over the past few years. It basically refers to the act of removing someone from a social circle or community after some wrongdoing or perceived wrongdoing — often having to do with sexism, racism, or xenophobia. s
At its best, cancel culture can be an act of freedom — especially when the person being cancelled has had a lot of power and has shown patterns of misbehavior or even abuse.
Or, it can cause more harm than good, keeping someone from feeling safe having their own opinions based on events or different beliefs.
Does the act of “cancelling” really bring about more justice and peace?
In this article from Pew Research (published in May of 2021), Monica Anderson writes that 44 percent of Americans have heard of the term Cancel Culture and claim to know its full effects. About 56 percent of Americans didn’t know the full meaning behind the term. That doesn’t stop teenagers today from using it in their daily lives.
People polled for the article were asked what came to mind when asked about the meaning of the word of “cancel culture” and given the task to describe it. Many said it was an act to represent support in taking action against harmful actions perpetrated by people, putting a stop to it. Others observed that it is a destructive action done to silence people based on past actions and beliefs or current ones.
If you go on social media — Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok — you can simply search the term “cancel culture” and see thousands of posts and videos hashtagged with it. The posts and videos then gain views as more viewers agree or disagree, allowing it to come up to the surface quicker and establishing its mark.
Nowadays cancelling someone is a popular technique to quickly shut someone out — a celebrity, coworker, family, or a friend.
For the last several years, it has only increased in recognition and has even made its way to political debates between people and government officials.
The term “cancel culture” originated in the 1980s to describe a break-up; in 2021, it’s about withdrawing support and power from people.
Anderson writes, “Some argue that cancel culture doesn’t even exist.” A small percentage of the public believe the word originally came into public eye after its obvious set of meaning and easier way of referencing someone is or has lost popularity.
While information can be useful, attaching worth to it the way people have been lately is dangerous. As vocabulary changes (and it will continue to change), we have to be more gentle with each other.