Let’s cancel cancel culture
One Saturday evening I sat quietly on the couch, scrolling on my phone. I opened Instagram Stories and the first thing I saw is the story of a friend of mine with the following text: “Cancel this stupid bitch” with Famke Louise’s head next to it. Good evening! I plunged into what had happened and found myself in a zone of negativity and hard opinions, I was still confused about what was going on. The cancellation of people is something that I see happening all the time, and I am done with it.
︎︎︎JONNE DEINUM / TECHNOLOGY
You can speak of a whole online culture in which this is going on. A culture in which people are silenced if they take a remarkable statement. According to me, an inhumane phenomenon, you try to delete someone, which is highly impossible. Don’t get me wrong, some people need to be put in places, and cancel culture has also achieved a great deal. As Alexandra D’amour says; “Cancel culture has been incredibly effective at combating sexism, racism, or any other type of abuse or harmful wrongdoing to others” (D’amour, A, 2020). But, in my opinion, cancel culture needs to be questioned.
Silenced by others. Image by Debusschere
Consequences for individuals
Amy, a white woman, was walking her dog in Central Park off a leash. Christian, a bird watcher in Central Park and black men was also walking there and told Amy to put her dog on a leash. You are supposed to do that where they were. Amy did not, he asked her to put her dog on a leash. When Amy started screaming, Christian decided to record her on video.
Amy approached Christian and asked him to stop recording. She then screamed at Christian and she pulls out her phone and begins to call the police, when connected to the 9-1-1 operator, she tells the operator; “There is an African American man—I am in Central Park— he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.” (Barbaro, 2020).
The video was published by Cristian his sister, it has been viewed 44,9 million times (Twitter, 2020). Some people are really firing at Amy. They are trying to figure out who she is, where she works. They eventually found this out and even called her employer. Amy eventually ends up losing her job. Later Christian get’s interviewed and asked whether he thinks what happened to her was fair, he doesn’t think so. “No excusing that it was a racist act, because it was a racist act. But does that define her entire life? I doubt that. She’s the only one that can tell if it defines her entire life by what she does going forward, and what she has done in the past. I can not answer that.” (CBS News, 2020). These dramas go from being interpersonal to a society-wide issue quickly due to the internet. The opinion of the victim is less relevant than what the people on Twitter think of the incident.
Limitation for artBesides consequences for the individual, canceling also influences society. Do you feel free to say everything online without thinking about it twice?
On 7 July 2020, a letter appeared in Harper’s Magazine signed by JK Rowling and about 150 other journalists and artists. In addition to the fact that canceling can be damaging to someone’s career or personal life, they claimed that also restricts them as artists. They no longer feel room for experimentation, and mistakes (Harpers Magazine, 2020). Every little thing that is seen as a mistake will be punished by the group that screams the loudest, there is barely room for discussion.
The incompleteness of the InternetThe hashtag #ikdoenietmeermee, translated as #idontparticipateanymore, caused a lot of commotion in the Netherlands a few weeks ago. Many influencers shared a video with this hashtag included. They called for no more participation in the corona measures. The hashtag was unsubstantiated, words were simply shouted without room for debate. After many questions from both supporters and opponents, nuance came and both sides ended up having a conversation. Would all this scaremongering in society have happened if we explain our opinions online more extensively? I doubt it.
So many communication, so little conversation.
Image by Okawa
The big bad social media bubble
It’s good to realise that something like online discussions can seem very big due to algorithms, while in reality it only concerns a small part of society who shares their opinion. The School, an Amsterdam based nightclub, put out a statement about Black Lives Matter this summer. To this, they received a lot of criticism, including that their staff would not be diverse enough and that the booked DJ’s were not inclusive at all (De School, 2020). Of course, it is not accepted when they do performative activism, and they should have come back to it with action points and an excuse in my opinion. De School decided to close the nightclub. Would the dance floor have remained empty if they continued their business? Were the online critics so ruthless? Or were there only a few big shouters? It is essential to keep in mind that social media rewards strong opinions.
And now what?We need to use social media as a connecting factor, to engage with people from all over the world. This is far from possible on mainstream platforms nowadays. “If you don’t pay for a product, you are the product.” (Rhodes, L. & Orlowski, J.,2020). Social media platforms benefit from widely divergent, vehement opinions. These will get the most attention and that is most interesting for advertisers, who do pay social media companies. The middle view will disappear as a result. It’s time for a new kind of platform, where there is room for nuance and conversation. People need to realise that you can only grow in your opinion by hearing the opinion of others.