Online Shaming, Cancel Culture, and Community Guidelines

This week’s lecture and assigned readings were particularly interesting to me because even though I have yet to witness the harm that online comments can have on my site, I have seen it happen to more people than I can count. While we may not know the people who use online comments to shame us, I imagine that the understanding that they are real people is quite disheartening to the person being shamed. Maria Konnikova’s article “The Psychology of Online Comments” highlights how we are unlikely to have our opinion changed by an anonymous comment. That makes plenty of sense to me- why would I listen to someone who is afraid to show themselves? But if they are not anonymous? If you can gain information about their life, their job, their family? It quickly becomes apparent that this person is so confident that they are right that they show themselves while in an argument against you. That must be one of the worst feelings in the world.

When watching Jon Ronson’s TED Talk, “When Online Shaming Spirals Out of Control”, I was instantly reminded of how “cancel culture” is currently used in society. Upon discussion with my classmates, what became clear is that some people can be “cancelled” and have their life ruined, while other can be “cancelled” for similar reasons and continue with their lives without consequences. The middle-class women mentioned in Ronson’s speech were destroyed by the online scrutiny they received. But people in positions of privilege, white men in particular, can go about their days as if nothing happened. The example of Chris Pratt that my peer discussed was a perfect example of this. In the future, I plan to be more critical in analyzing the way cancel culture presents itself to different types of people, and I hope you do too!

I think it is important to remember that we all make mistakes, and that by nature of the internet, more of these mistakes get displayed publicly. I think that by cancelling people for little mistakes, we are responsible for criminalizing mistakes that could be undone with a little help. Obviously, there are some people that should stay away when they are cancelled. Like, we don’t need to hear any sympathy pleas from Harvey Weinstein. I’m talking about the people who are open to self-reflection and respond to feedback from others. If you can own up to your mistakes and make amends to the people you harmed, shouldn’t you be forgiven? Growth comes from learning from mistakes, and if we don’t let people come back from mistakes, how many “good” people will remain? We need allies in the fight against the patriarchy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, etc., and the way to obtain these allies is through teaching, not shaming.

In saying all of this, it’s inevitable that I recognize the benefit of having Community Guidelines on my site. That being said, I have yet to receive a comment or email on Masked Retail. My thought is that if I find that I can continue posting here during the next semester, even though I won’t be in a Publishing class (☹), I will implement these guidelines. Given where I’m currently at, though, it does not seem necessary to do this right away.

(Featured Image by Crawford Jolly on Unsplash)


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