Remember the days of boycotting based on beliefs and behavior? When a company would support something that went against a group’s beliefs, people rallied to boycott the store, manufacturer, etc. Today we call that cancel culture. Definition.com explains cancel culture as “The popular practice of withdrawing support for (cancelling) public figures and companies after they had done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”
Group shaming? Ouch. Sounds a lot like bullying to me. Oh, I know, if we see what we’re doing as righteous and purposeful, we’re justified, right? I agree there are instances in which we are fighting for justice, and we take steps that try to emphasize our perspective by withdrawing support, especially financial, but it’s a slippery slope. We sometimes jump on a bandwagon without thinking for ourselves, without doing some research—not just on the basis of what we’re boycotting, cancelling, or shaming, but being aware of the potential impact of our actions and considering if there’s a better option. In many cases, we’re a tiny voice in a sea of giant creatures that don’t even notice us, even if we combine forces. But we still feel powerful when we share the post and sign up. Why? I think it’s mostly because we want to make a difference and if we do it alongside others, we imagine we are truly making the right kind of impact. But we’re missing something.
As we engage and unite with the people easiest to engage with (aka, the people most like us), we withdraw from the more difficult (but potentially more impactful) interactions we could be having. Add the fact that we mainly do so online, and we gain an even stronger sense of camaraderie and influence. We become more falsely secure in our stance and comfortable circle and less willing to do the work of reaching out to people we can’t see face to face and might not personally know yet. We each have a sphere of influence but keep in mind several factors.
- Influence is two way. It is not something to pursue simply to share your opinions. It involves dialogue characterized with respect. Even when the other person doesn’t seem to have respect for you, you can treat him or her with respect.
- You probably don’t have as much influence online as you think. There is enough inflammatory posting and sharing right now that people who don’t agree with you quickly scroll past; you don’t have much impact on them. People who engage with you generally agree with you; you don’t have much impact on them either.
- It’s essential to be honest with the people you come in contact every day (and the potential for connecting with more). Share well—with compassion, intentionality, patience, and truth. Pay attention to the influence flowing both ways. Consider how healthy it is and what you can do to improve the dynamics. Yes, there are a handful of people who are not wise for us to be around. We need to lessen their influence—both spoken and unspoken—but there are many others who we excuse withdrawing from or building walls when the very act of humility it takes to engage is worth the effort.
Whether with a group or on your own, who are you canceling right now, and why? Are you sure it’s the best option? Maybe it is, but can you consider the impact engaging and doing life with someone might develop into?