By G. Brown
Any day you go on social media, some celebrity is getting called out for something they said in an interview or online. Perhaps they made a joke or supported someone unpopular like the current President or a convicted sexual predator and rapist like Bill Cosby. Or maybe they simply wanted to express their opinion and the next thing you know—society deems you canceled.
Is it fair to boycott, cancel, call out people simply when their expressions or opinions don’t line up with yours or the general consensus?
Former President Barack Obama shared his thoughts on the subject at a recent Obama Foundation event. When the topic of social media and “being woke” came up, the former President said, “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff. You should get over that quickly. The world is messy, there are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids. And share certain things with you.“
The President described what is a disturbing trend online and with younger generations in general. Obama says people see their judgemental views as the way to bring about change, but in truth, it’s simply toxic behavior. Obama continued saying, “…there is this sense that ‘the way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people and that’s enough. That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. if all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”
We’ve all witnessed it. A fan criticizes a singer like Beyonce and ends up being dragged to within an inch of their life on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook by the collective Beyhive.
A school kid is bullied on social media to the point of taking their own life as the only way to escape.
Smear campaigns have ruined families, cost people their jobs, caused them to live in public humility all because of a picture or post that turned them into public enemy number one.
Such harsh judgments leave no room for gray areas or complex opinions. No room for people to be free to express their point of view…to make mistakes or go against the grain. You say one thing people disagree with and boom–you’re canceled.
One person voicing their opinion can quickly turn into a lynch mob of outrage and hurtful vitriol. It is a cyberbully mentality where people feel as though they can throw a stone and hide behind the secrecy of fake handles and phony avatars.
It’s a trend that seemingly has flourished over the last few years where civility and thoughtful debate have been are gradually fading to be replaced by name-calling and crassness.
Obama is right, the world is messy and people aren’t perfect.We’ve all said something dumb or inappropriate at the worst time, does that make us the reincarnation of Hitler?
Pulling up a singer’s/actor’s.comedian’s 10-year-old text messages or pictures of politicians in Blackface for Halloween from their teen years tell me what that person was like then—should an error in judgment define them now?
We don’t have to cancel someone online or call them out on Twitter. If they say something we disagree with or find offensive…we can unfriend, unfollow or mute them. We don’t need to incite a Twitter civil war by creating a hashtag campaign to take them down gathering a mob of angry villagers to kill the monster. Sometimes, the best response, especially on public platforms, is to let dumb remarks go. If they come for you directly, sure respond. But do I need to get outraged every time I see some offensive, mean or downright dumb post online? Sometimes the harshest answer is no answer at all. No retweet, no like, no share. No problem.