A person falling into a dumpster. The text reads,

It seems like every week, someone new gets "cancelled" online:

  • TV host Ellen DeGeneres for being a nightmare boss

  • Author J.K. Rowling for posting transphobic tweets

  • Tiktok stars Charli and Dixie D'Amelio for being rude to their chef

Cancel culture is a divisive topic!

Is it a way to hold people accountable for causing harm to others? Or has it gone too far?

If so, what's the alternative?

What Is Cancel Culture?

A woman pointing, saying

Cancel culture happens when a group of people ostracize someone for doing or saying offensive things.

It usually follows a pattern:

  1. A well-known person gets called out on social media for their harmful acts or words.

  2. People debate whether this person should have a place in the community anymore.

  3. The "cancelled" person might face consequences for their actions.

What Happens When Someone Gets Cancelled?

A blonde woman saying, Public Apology

  • Video blogger Myka Stauffer gave a teary apology on her Youtube channel for giving up her adopted son to another family after he was diagnosed with autism

A paper that says

Losing Your Job

  • Justine Sacco was fired from her PR job after a racist Tweet she posted while on holiday went viral

Kamala Harris saying,

Losing Your Platform

  • Donald Trump was permanently banned from several social media sites after the Capitol Hill riots

A woman posing for a mugshot

Legal Action

  • Amy Cooper was arrested and charged after she was caught on video falsely accusing a black man of threatening her in Central Park

How Do People Feel About It?

How you feel about it depends on your point of view.

Two people arguing about cancel culture

For some, it means an attack on free speech:

  • It's an attempt to silence controversial or "politically incorrect" opinions.

  • It makes people afraid to express their views without being shamed.

Others see it instead as consequence culture:

  • It helps marginalized communities hold people accountable for causing harm.

  • It teaches people to be more careful with their words and actions.

Why Is It Tricky?

In some cases, like sexual assault, workplace harassment, or racism, it's clear cut: someone crosses a line and people say, "Enough is enough!"

But in other cases, the backlash against the person far outweighs any damage they did to the community.

For Justine Sacco, one offensive tweet changed her life. She didn't just lose her job: she received death threats and suffered from PTSD for a year .

First image: a box of

What About Power Imbalances?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in U.S. Congress, saying,

It's one thing when a celebrity gets cancelled.

Famous people like Ellen DeGeneres have the resources to limit the damage to their reputation. They can hire public relations firms and call on powerful friends to defend their image.

But what about ordinary people? What if you're a teen, or a person from a marginalized community? You might not have the same resources to defend yourself.

What's The Alternative?

Geordi Laforge from Star Trek: disapproving of

Some people feel that cancel culture is too focused on punishment and doesn't address the deeper issues that lead to harmful behavior .

Some communities prefer restorative justice to cancel culture.

They say it's better to call someone in :

  • show them how they've hurt others

  • give them a chance to reflect on their behavior

The person can then:

  • apologize to the people they harmed

  • take steps to make things right with the community

Take Action

Homer Simpson watching TV on the couch, asking,

The next time you hear about someone getting cancelled, ask yourself:

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This Byte has been authored by

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Steve Birek

Education For All!