After maybe a few months or years, you wind up finding out that your friend, that one true dear person to you whom you cherish and why not, has canceled you. You may have heard the words ‘you are canceled’.
Sometimes, after continuous complaints from a lot of people, a community may ‘cancel’ a restaurant or event. Essentially they are calling for the end of that entity, a boycott by all and sundry.
If you’ve ever heard those words or come across them on social media I’m here to tell you that the term for it is cancel culture. Now if you are a millennial or Gen Z, then cancel culture is more often than not your first call when certain issues come up, but what really is it?
Well, cancel culture is mostly ‘throwing’ a person, entity, or community out based on one’s dislike or distaste for the social etiquette or a lack of it. If you are found to have violated the unwritten or written social norms of a particular society, then you best believe that you will be canceled. You have proven not to belong therefore, like the French say, et voila! You do not belong.
Cancel culture may be seen as the justice system of social media. It stems from strong disapproval of an act that leads to a clarion call eventually resulting in the mass cancellation of a person or business by certain social cohorts. It’s often associated with celebrities who fall off the train. Their fans cancel them.
Personal Cancel Outs
In a group of more than two persons, there will always be someone who doesn’t conform to the standards set up by the group. Others may complain about bad behavior, befitting status or a lack of it and eventually decide that, well we should cancel this friend. That friend is canceled and subsequently, no one from that friend group wants to have anything to do with him or her.
Events and Restaurant Cancel Outs
Now, this is very rife on Twitter. A new place comes up or a new event springs up and everyone wants to go. It’s the new baby in town. Everyone now moves to that restaurant. If you have not been there then you have not lived. Then all of a sudden, as if rehearsed, one by one everyone comes out to complain about something; overpriced meals, rude servers, unappealing aesthetics, and management issues. One person tweets a concern, then like bees, they all start coming out. One by one sharing experiences. Soon there’s a hashtag and once again et voila! Said restaurant is canceled.
Similarly, with events, an annual show keeps growing strong and better. Soon a co-founder is publicly accused of sexual harassment with evidence. Co-founders say nothing or take a while to speak up then the calls start coming. Social pressure from a hundred dozen people continuously trending the hashtag # canceled. It doesn’t end. It’s a demonstration online as tempers fly and individuals seek ‘justice’ and fairness in the way they know how.
But let’s stop and ask, are we not too quick to cancel out?
It may seem that getting social justice on social media is only by canceling someone or something out. Take for instance ‘Surviving R-Kelly.’ The beauty of it all was the oneness of all across the globe pushing for justice to be served irrespective of status and thankfully that happened, but what comes next? A call for a boycott of his music. There was so much social pressure to have R-Kelly’s song canceled. Had justice not been served to him? But at least in this instance, the right thing was done, to call for the justice system to do its thing.
In another instance, there have been footballers who have been suspended or dismissed from their clubs because they were accused of rape. Now everyone is aware of the popular ‘not guilty until proven so’ slogan. However, being a suspect alone, or someone calling you out as a rapist alone is enough for everyone to ask that you be canceled. Questions like ‘why is the club not saying anything? Why is he still in the club?’ would be flying on everyone’s lips. Eventually, the cub issues a statement and you’re gone. Just like the wind. Whether you would be called back if you’re proven not guilty is a wonder, but social pressure triumphs.
Meanwhile, in the above scenarios, the main issues that come should always take precedence over canceling out the offenders, as that is what matters.
Cancel culture is big on celebrities and public figures. One big mistake and you will be named, shamed, and expelled from the echelon of ‘everyone favorite’ status.
However, we are too quick to cancel out that we sometimes lose focus. A celebrity is alleged to have raped a civilian. The first point shouldn’t be to call for the canceling of that supposed celebrity but to seek justice for the victim. Turning attention to the perpetrator for naming and shaming consequently, cancellation diverts attention from the real issue at hand.
While it can be understood why the social media justice system clings to canceling out as soon as the crimes are committed, it is important to ensure that the legal justice, that would ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book, is the first and foremost point of call before cancer culture takes effect.
Does it even work?
No. Do not be deceived. Everyone will name, shame, and cancel out a public figure’s restaurant and events, but not everyone will avoid going there. There is a clear distinction between an entity and the persons who control that entity.
McDonald’s has been called out several times for numerous acts ranging from the unfair treatment meted out to employees and customers, but everyone still troops in there.
At a point during R-Kelly’s trial, it was reported that his songs were recording higher sales. For someone who had been canceled? Surprising.
The point is that the naming and shaming of offenders on social media is spot on. However, if it is a business, call out the business. if it is an event, call the offender. Do not assume because the offender is related to the business, they must be canceled out too.
Cancel culture continues to be effective in a way. You are disgraced first and foremost, but it must be understood that it never totally works. Definitely, some people will still patronize whoever is being canceled out, but that’s just what cancel culture is.
So the next time someone calls for an end to something or a boycott of a person, stop, pause and think if the core of the issue has been dealt with before social media justice is pronounced.