Forever-Ever?: Cancel vs. Counsel Culture

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The great thing about social media is that everyone has a voice. The worst thing about social media is that everyone has a voice. Out of our various networking platforms, cancel culture emerged as a way for communities to hold companies, celebrities, and politicians accountable for their words or actions in real-time by boycotting either their product(s) or their existence. However, as social media grew, so did the outbursts that became less about course correction and more about shaming anyone with an opposing thought or a different past. Instead, a counsel culture is needed—one that understands context and grace more than one that desires only shame and judgment.

The fear of cancel culture forces an individual, famous or not, to reconsider their thoughts before pushing the tweet, post, or send button. It also promotes toxic groupthink and encourages charging into cyberwar without doing any research. Lesser known individuals are heard within a collective of like-minded voices to speak out against (or bring light to) homophobic, racist, sexist, and other toxic statements/actions. But it’s often too quick on the draw. Old magazine articles from the 1970s resurface and are judged with a 2020 lens. A one-minute clip is highlighted and circulated for criticism, but nobody’s watching the full video. Full-grown adults are cast as guilty for their adolescent opinions and actions without consideration for their growth. Today’s cancel culture has become a demand for the impossible by expecting perfection as a prerequisite.

Cancel culture is a binary mindset: you’re either a brick or a sponge. A brick individual is resistant to learning why their statement or action was offensive because of pride. These reluctant types earn their cancellation because they ignore whatever factual information is presented to them while choosing to be willfully ignorant. A sponge individual, although they may have an opposing viewpoint, takes time to listen/read why their stance could be offensive. A counsel culture creates space for a sponge to evaluate their actions and reexamine their thoughts, which offers a chance to either change or re-present their perspective. A culture that counsels doesn’t excuse past behavior, but it understands that a person’s journey is that of a human being and not of an angel.

It is foolish to expect a society created from imperfect beings with diverse backgrounds to also be one of like minds and identical perspectives. Not to mention cancelling someone based solely on them having an opposing opinion is problematic within itself. An eclectic collection of ideas coexisting is the foundation of progress, and it is better to respond to an individual by offering assistance, maybe examples or credible sources that can educate, instead of denouncing them. Embracing counsel culture creates a community that understands that growth takes time, and therefore we should give the same grace we want to receive by accepting that everyone is on a journey and evolution isn’t a zero-sum game.

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