Is “cancel culture” our downfall or just what we need right now?

A dopamine rush takes hold as you zero in on your latest victim. Your eyes widen, your posture angles, and your lips purse as you are overcome by a tweet that makes its way to your newsfeed.

Your favorite celebrity made an anti-Semitic remark, the CEO of a national brand was caught up in a #metoo scandal, or the local restaurant around the corner placed political signs on their windows — endorsing a candidate you find morally hollow.

You must take action! But, how?

If you aren’t familiar with “cancel culture,” then allow me to elaborate. Just like someone seeks to cancel a subscription to a service, in a cancel culture, a person actively “calls to the mat” an individual or organization in question. The objective is to publicly boycott, shame, or humiliate the source of the objectionable act.

Cancel culture allows people to identify who is loyal to their movement. Highlighting the supposed wrongdoings of others forces people to respond…Those who ask for evidence of the alleged wrongdoing, question the severity of the transgression, or debate the propriety of cancel culture risk revealing themselves as unfaithful to the cause.

There is debate whether a cancel culture stifles freedom of speech and discourages dialogue. I believe it does, but only because we’ve resorted to bullying that doesn’t promote participation from multiple perspectives.

I prefer to reframe my thinking — wondering whether a culture of questioning societal structures is exactly what we need right now.

Cancel culture was destined to get a bad rap with its primary living space being social media.

Social media was already the platform where people could pound their chest and make bolder statements than they would in person. It is a place where emotions run high and alliances become apparent.

However, to question the “ways of the world” is part of what makes us human.

The act of questioning or rejecting the status quo is not what threatens free speech.

What we say has consequences and may elicit responses that are different than what we expected. Though the intensity of responses can “Shut people down,” that doesn’t mean free speech is under attack. However, when we move from a society of constructive dialogue to bullying, trolling, and personal attacks we begin to play with fire.

Senior Strategist and Project Manager at Trinity University. I write about higher education, marketing, project management, and a few wild hair topics.