Accountability: are we taking it too far?


Lucy Knerr

Everyone is hanging by a thread in the eyes of social media. So what will happen?

Recently, a beautiful thing has arisen within internet culture: holding accountability. 

The most recent generation has taken it upon themselves to call out others for offensive behavior that could potentially harm many others in their stead. This movement has purged many of those who were truly harming the community… however, along with the bad, most good has been driven out as well. This is called cancel culture.

One of the problems cancel culture has is that forcing someone to take accountability has sometimes been too extreme. Holding accountability on the internet seems to hold the same level of intensity across the board when some issues don’t necessarily need the same amount of attention as others. Because this intensity is centered around internet culture, it continues to worsen due to the disconnect between technology and face to face contact. Most disputes within the realm of cancel culture stem from offensive language and actions, usually concerning racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. In these cases, cancel culture is necessary for positive change and protection for others who may be extremely hurt by this language. However, this positive change can quickly turn toxic when the accountability turns into blaming and borderline harassment. 

The definition of cancel culture by Miriam Webster is “the practice or tendency of engaging  in mass cancelling […] as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure”. Cancel culture seems to have originated on twitter and is still mostly centered around the social media site. Many famous names such as Elen Degeneres and Johnny Depp have become victims of cancel culture for hurtful actions, and many more names are coming to light as the quest for accountability and change continues. Unfortunately, along with holding accountability, those holding the perpetrators accountable replaced accountability and education with a cyber witch hunt. 

Cancel culture, at its core, is designed by the people of the internet to deprive those who, using actions or words, hurt others of their platform and status. In attempting to help, good people who made one mistake are also being attacked and driven off of their own platforms via doxxing, harsh hashtags, and extreme negative language. All of this can be sparked by an honest mistake or a misunderstanding of words. While people are forced to apologize and to hold themselves accountable for their actions, they are also becoming too afraid to say anything at all. 

Asking people with large platforms on the internet to use their platforms for good is becoming impossible due to the fact that those with big platforms are too afraid to even speak about what’s right in exchange for losing their status and creative autonomy. The environment that cancel culture has created is one that doesn’t allow those who take accountability to grow and learn from their mistakes, and thus the problem it is trying to solve is only becoming worse. One mistake suddenly defines your whole character and one mistake can ruin your whole life permanently, even after you apologize. 

In order to truly garner change, twitter and sites like it that endorse cancel culture must create an environment where it is okay for people to make mistakes and learn from them while also holding them accountable for their actions. Unless this occurs, many more will become victims of cancel culture and the problems this generation faces will only worsen as a result. Those who participate in cancel culture need to recognize that they have made mistakes themselves.