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5 ways to avoid falling into a toxic “cancel culture”.

In the previous article, we discussed how the trending “cancel culture” or “outrage culture” is adversely impacting our mental health and self-development. If you are yet to read the write-up or need a refresher then do check out my previous article “The ‘Outrage Culture’ and its impact on self-development”.

“Outrage culture” or “cancel culture” is a social media trend that is believed to have originally begun in the mid 1990s and tries to strip anyone of a public platform who engages in disrespectful and abusive behavior without a crumb of remorse. However, this has now been weaponized by hate groups, who openly utilize it to silence any opinion, good or bad, unless it agrees to their own ideals. This has turned out to be an extremely toxic trend that closes all the doors to second chances, forgiveness and redemption without a second thought. Before we get into today’s topic, I’d like to share Joaquin Phoenix’s incredible award acceptance speech at the 92nd Academy Awards which captures the gist of this remarkably well.

 I’ve been a scoundrel in my life. I’ve been selfish… and ungrateful, but so many of you in this room have given me a second chance. And I think that’s when we’re at our best — when we support each other. Not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow… when we guide each other toward redemption: That is the best of humanity.

In his speech, he stressed the importance of fixing the world, as well as the peaceful coexistence of all living beings, and concluded by emphasizing the importance of giving second chances. He was referring to the Cancel Culture, a well-intentioned but misguided social media culture of shutting people out.

Now that we know how this culture can severely impact our own self-development and mental health, in this article, what I want to share with you are the few ways we can adopt to avoid falling into the trap of the “toxic cancel culture”.

1. Becoming more informed and tolerant: Before forming an opinion about an incident or topic and joining the bandwagon of haters, make sure you read up on all resources (credible, of course) and see both sides of things. Every coin has two sides and we need to have the tolerance to acknowledge that well-known fact. We need to avoid stereotyping people based on little information.

2. Be aware of “pluralistic ignorance”: According to Sophia Moskalensko, a researcher who studies radicalization, a phenomenon known as “pluralistic ignorance” contributes to social media outrage. Like I mentioned in the previous article, one reason that people join this trend is because it gives them a sense of belongingness so they tend to join the trend against their better judgment. Because our social media networks are likely to be made up of people we agree with, we feel compelled to be angry when we see everyone else being angry about something. Be mindful if this is something you are experiencing as well and take conscious action if you see yourself moving in that direction.

3. Encourage healthy discussions during conversation: This relates back to accepting differing perspectives, but we also need to create a safe atmosphere where the other person may share their actual beliefs. One may like pizza to burgers, or one may prefer one political party over another. That doesn’t imply the other individual needs to be “canceled” because they have preferences!

4. Realizing that forgiveness or second chances are not equivalent to ignorance: This is something that needs to be clear here. Forgiving someone does not mean the other person would go about freely without consequences. It doesn’t mean that you’ve to forget their actions entirely. The point is to not promote further toxicity.

5.  Understanding and Identifying which kind of behavior actually requires attention: Like we had mentioned, public accountability is important. We need to discourage any behavior that is unacceptable and leaves no room for debate. For example: humanitarian issues. We need to call out toxic behaviors and beliefs, keeping in mind that the main motive is to negate those harmful beliefs, not entirely dismiss those people without a chance of redemption. Law and societal codes are there for a reason. 

In today’s time, “cancel culture” has no room for reform. It is exclusionary, often disproportionate, and divisive, and thus serves no purpose. This is why we have to be mindful about what propagandas we are furthering, what actions are we taking and how it’s impacting us. 

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