This might be a controversial topic to talk about but bear with me. First of all, give this Ted Talk a watch by Jon Ronson about “How one tweet can ruin your life”. It’s 20 minutes but worth the watch – don’t worry, I’ll wait here.
Over the last few years I found I share a lot of similar feelings and views, from this Ted Talk, about social media.
We have all seen tweets or social media posts where a person calls out someone else over an action or comment. Now, I am not suggesting that no one deserves to be called out. But think back about all the times you’ve seen a post calling someone out, did you talk to the people involved and see the whole picture about what is going on. I try to but there are a few times where even I don’t always check what is going on.
Let me tell you a story, I saw a tweet where the photo really impressed me, so I just retweeted it. It’s a quick 3 seconds job and moved on with the tweet. I didn’t read the tweet which was referring to an unsavory topic at the time. About 3 hours later, I had someone whom I had a good relationship with, asked me if I knew the tweet I retweeted, was causing an issue, and could I see that I was being talked about as well as-being blocked without being spoken to. I was grateful for my friend to check with me before they took any action.
Obviously I was devastated about what I did and untweeted the tweet, made an apology tweet and hoped that people would forgive me. However it got me thinking about those who spoke ill of me or blocked me, they had made an instant decision to do that, without having given me a right to reply and defend myself. If it wasn’t for a friendly tweet I might not noticed and the unfortunate talk about me might have gotten worse and even could have made me close my social media accounts. All just from an uninformed retweet.
Another thing I witnessed was this “mob mentality” which built up. As mentioned in the video, once someone makes or shares a tweet, you’ll get people who will go “Yes, I share that viewpoint and we can bond together”. It doesn’t take long for people to spread that bad vibe, or even a good vibe, to bring together people. It’s strange to see social accounts band together and block you en masse. I still see the accounts where I’ve been blocked today and wonder if that one mistake was the cause of it, or something else.
I don’t like the idea that people are not allowed to be redeemed, forgiven and given the chance to move on from the incident. We all make mistakes and we all crave to be forgiven as well as not to be constantly reminded of the mistake. Also I like to believe that people’s personalities can evolve and viewpoints change over the years.
So, I posed a question should we cancel “Cancel Culture”….Yes…and also No.
I wouldn’t outright say ‘don’t call someone out’, because then we wouldn’t have movements like #MeToo and the chance to empower other people to stand up. Nevertheless, we have to be careful when banding together to “cancel” someone out of a community, we should make sure that we do it for the right reasons. Also should someone want to be forgiven and make amends then we should allow them the chance to do that. It wouldn’t be fair to keep reminding people of the events – after all we wouldn’t want to be constantly reminded of all of our mistakes. Naturally it depends on the situation for example a poorly phrased joke is very different from ongoing abusive tweets.
So, if you are thinking of putting up a status to call someone out for an inappropriate comment, why not first discuss it with the other person (or perhaps privately with a mutual friend) and see if the matter can be resolved. You might find it was a misunderstanding which can be easily talked over and allow them a chance to remove the comment rather than sharing it further. We’ve all said something online that came across wrong and with the mob mentality and trigger fingers retweeting mistakes it is not hard to see a situation where the “cancel culture” took comment too far and the tweeter being in a situation where they have to, close their social media account, they are unable to attend and enjoy comic-con with friends or even to have an event close down.
Naturally there are some things which are not easily forgiven and this isn’t to suggest people have a free pass to say anything and then tweet an apology but when something is said out of character, stop and think about the person being the twitter handle.