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Cancel Culture: Constructive or Counterproductive?

As a member of the social media generation, it's safe to say that the various platforms have consumed most of my life. In the past five or so years, there hasn't been a single day where I haven't checked or visited some form of social media. Between the wide variety of apps and content, there truly is something for everyone. However, nowadays there's something like we've never seen at the forefront of social media: 'Cancel Culture.' Merriam-Webster defines this term as "the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure." We have seen a bunch of celebrities and influencers lose everything they had to this movement, and for a variety of reasons.

For those who don't know me: I grew up in an urban community. My High School had over 1,300 students and somehow, someway, everyone seemed to know who I was. Even in the towns that were connected to ours, I was a recognizable person. To most people, that would be a very cool feeling, especially in High School. But in my case, sometimes these people knew me for many reasons which I didn't wish to be known or remembered. For example, during my Senior year, I had two "best" friends; I had driven away most of my real friends for a taste of popularity and I rode that wave for about as long as I could. In January of that same year, these two friends cut me off, seemingly without warning. I was very confused; it was as if they had just disappeared, yet I still saw them everyday at school. However, now that I had nearly reached the "fame" I'd always desired for myself, I wasn't going to let it slip away. I decided to write a roast - something that, to this day, I still have saved on my phone as a reminder to myself that I'm growing and must always keep working to be a better person.

This "roast" was aimed specifically at the two friends I had lost, and I tried about as hard as possible to hurt their feelings. My goal was to make them hurt the same way they had hurt me. The roast would eventually be posted on Instagram by a well-known account at my school and, before I knew it, my phone was blowing up. Some thought it was hilarious, others were very upset with me; I was very deserving of that criticism. As much as I regret that decision, it taught me a couple of incredibly valuable lessons. The first lesson? People deserve second chances. I was a man of many mistakes and I knew very well that I wouldn't be able to rekindle that friendship. However, what I could do is learn from that past friendship and be sure to never put myself in that position ever again. If I treated people with respect from day one and they showed the same respect to me, I'd never fall into this trap again.

This story connects to cancel culture in a way that I believe is very important. Most influencers and celebrities involved with cancel culture are noticeably young. I was obviously young myself at the time of my mistake. If I had the platform and the fans that these influencers have, I'd have been immediately thrown into the "cancel" circle. I believe most people who have been "canceled" by fans deserve a second chance, just as I had received. Over the past few years, I've had friends really help me grow to become the person I am today. I live every day trying my best to be a respectable and friendly person. Just because I'm not famous and I'm not in the spotlight, that doesn't mean that I don't deserve the same treatment. I would love for my generation to be more open with life and more understanding of the fact that mistakes are something people can overcome and come back from.

Everyone deserves a second chance to a certain extent, no matter who they are. There are, of course, some things that should NEVER be allowed, such as sexual assault charges (which are becoming more common among celebrities), and other disturbing crimes. Offenses like those should very much come with only one strike. However, I would just like to see more love shown from fans, as well as assistance guiding certain people to get them to understand the difference from right and wrong. Nobody is perfect, nobody lives life without making mistakes and it's time to start teaching that from an early age. Let's start to shy away from the movement of publicly shaming people for their mistakes and start helping them grow and become a better person from the errors in judgment that everyone can make. As Brian Rathbone once said, "Wisdom is the reward for surviving our own stupidity."

- Charlie (@johnson_kiff)

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