Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

Cancel Culture and Cyberbullying

April 15, 2021

I have a friend that I’ve known for many years.  We share basically the same morals and values, but we have very different ideas about certain people and politics.  Over the course of our friendship, we have spent numerous hours having healthy discussions, which have sometimes led to intense moments of fellowship, only to find ourselves at an impasse.  And this is why I love my friend.  We can argue and debate and then finally come to a point where we just simply agree to disagree.  And as soon as one of us says that very phrase, “let’s agree to disagree”, that’s the end.  Neither of us has changed our viewpoint, but we aren’t cancelling our friendship over it. 

And that’s where I see a huge problem today in social media.  I get the whole “call-out culture”.  Calling someone out in order to hold an offender accountable for his/her actions.  And, I can clearly see how that has led to the whole “cancel culture” phenomenon.  Basically, when someone is called out for an offense, social media calls for people to boycott that person’s site or business. 

However, what about the people who are falsely called out?  They then become victims, and their lives, or in the very least, reputations, are ruined.  Back when the #metoo movement began, many people who had been sexually harassed or abused finally had a community in which they could share their voice.  And, there was a lot of good that came from that. 

But what about those who were falsely accused?  Because everything in the online world moves at break-neck speeds, if someone is accused of anything on social media, within minutes, the whole world can know about it.  And as people begin to comment on, post, or re-share, the amount of damage to the accused continues to increase.

Cancel culture clearly takes “calling out” to the next level but is it considered cyberbullying?  The definition of cyberbullying is to use electronic communication to intimidate or threaten another individual.  Here at Neptune Navigate, we use this definition: To use digital technology to purposefully upset or torment another person repeatedly.  Therefore, when someone is accused online, whether they are innocent or guilty, would the repeated social media posts against them constitute  cyberbullying based on the definitions above?  Can the accused still be seen as innocent until proven guilty? 

More often than not, in the eyes of the social media public…the person usually appears  guilty as charged. And, another thing to consider is the reputation of that person or business that can potentially be ruined just because someone else didn’t like what that person or business did.  It seems to be the way our society works now.  If we don’t like how someone treats us, or if we are upset about the way something is handled at a place of business, we take to social media and vent our frustrations for the world to see.   

I realize the intent of the original rant on social media  is oftentimes  to inform the public of wrongdoing…not to bully, but can we see how quickly  it can escalate to bullying once everyone jumps on that bandwagon?  What if we went back to face-to-face discussions when we got upset with someone?  What if we went to the person or business who we felt wronged us, and shared our feelings in person?  Maybe,  just maybe, we might accomplish more and effect more change than we ever could by going online.  Instead of calling out or cancelling, maybe we should try coming together to have a healthy discussion.  

Isn’t it worth a try?