We can cancel online orders, not human beings


Illustration by Ally Rzesa

Like Eicher, I also believe in the power of conversation and communication. However, since social media has the ability to reach millions of people almost instantaneously, it can become a dangerous rabbit hole for drama and social exile.

By Carlota Cano

English poet Alexander Pope, once said “To err is human,” alluding to the fact that all people make mistakes. Some of these mistakes are more serious than others, like knocking over the coffee mug onto your expensive computer or accidentally spray tanning yourself orange like Ross Geller in Friends

However, Pope was not able to live to see the day when the media and the masses joined together to exile other human beings for their mistakes. 

The time has come to talk about “cancel” culture and its consequences. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of the word cancel is “to bring to nothingness,” ultimately highlighting the similar effect that “cancel” culture has sprung onto society. Nowadays, people are diminishing the significance of others. The actions associated with “canceling” someone leave little room for mistakes and have a negative impact on mental health. 

This phenomenon or culture of “cancelling” originated on Twitter as a hashtag. The creation of this hashtag was supposed to serve as a way to hold public figures accountable for their actions. The term describes the disconnection that occurs between these stars and their fans, just as anyone would “cancel” a subscription to a streaming service or online program. In fact, the term “cancel” became even more popular when the troublesome actions of stars, like Louis C.K. and Bill Cosby, came to light. 

In a Vogue interview, singer Taylor Swift said, “When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being.” Her remarks came after her public feud with Kim Kardashian in 2016 regarding Swift’s claims that Kanye West had not sought approval to use her name in one of his songs. Videos and audio tapes were released that contradict Swift’s claims, starting a feud between Swifties and Kardashian fans. Consequently, the #TaylorSwiftIsCancelled hashtag spread across social media. 

To be clear: pointing out that “cancel” culture is significantly damaging to society does not mean it was wrong to condemn the wrongdoings of murderers and sexual assailants, like Harvey Weinstein, for example. For that reason, they are involved in legal proceedings. Society fails to point out that human beings are complex and different, leaving room for misinterpretation and mistakes, like in the Taylor Swift case. 

There needs to be a very careful consideration of the consequences of “cancel” culture. Comedian Billy Eicher framed a possible alternative situation well: “To me, ‘cancellation’ is childish. I’m into conversation, not cancellation. I’m into owning up to past mistakes, acknowledging blindspots and hurtful remarks, talking through it, discussing it, learning, moving past it and making progress together.” 

Like Eicher, I also believe in the power of conversation and communication. However, since social media has the ability to reach millions of people almost instantaneously, it can become a dangerous rabbit hole for drama and social exile. What happened to Taylor Swift was unfair and added to the drama. There are bad people out there who deserve punishments from public opinions. However, people should be aware of what they say on social media instead of just following the viral trend. Otherwise, it would cause unnecessary mental harm to those innocent people. Whether famous or not, innocent people voicing their opinions should have to succumb to the horrors of social exiliation and feelings of loneliness. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Social isolation can lead to adverse consequences such as depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function.”

Within this era of “cancel” culture, the words of successful businessman Warren Buffet have never been more clear: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it.” As such, I find it rather unfair how an individual’s social life and good standing can cease to exist the second they make a mistake. If this culture perpetuates, we will see many people silencing themselves and avoiding sharing their opinions because of the fear of being permanently excluded. 

Personally, there have been instances in the last couple of years where I’ve refrained from voicing an opinion because of the backlash that it could have caused me. In a similar situation, a student commented on this issue in an article for The Atlantic, “I probably hold back 90 percent of the things that I want to say due to fear of being called out. People won’t call you out because your opinion is wrong. People will call you out for literally anything. Hence why I avoid any situation that could put me in that position. And that’s sad.”

We can cancel online orders, plans and deliveries. But we need to stray from “canceling” other human beings. There’s beauty in knowing that humans are different and unique and a bonus in learning from mistakes as well. We need to form a nonviolent communication community that strives for more transparent social justice today and for the future generations.

Carlota Cano is a senior studying communication studies. If you would like to respond to this thought piece in the form of a letter to the editor, email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for style and clarity.