We get cultural information at an unprecedented pace. Rather than one episode a week, Netflix drops a season on us all at once. And in order to stay relevant—and keep getting those sweet-ass likes—there’s huge pressure to have an opinion about everything. But how do you have an opinion about everything when “everything” is infinitely inconsumable and only growing larger by the moment? Simple—swipe right, swipe left. Scarlett Johansson is somehow playing another Asian character? Racist! Swipe left! There’s a whole sitcom that’s fronted by a woman? Feminist! Swipe right!
See how easy that is? We do it all the time about everything. Basically, there isn’t an opportunity to think for more than two seconds about anything. And why would you? Thinking is hard and for nerds.
Of course, the natural next step is to say: Do something. If everything is racist, and everyone is sexist, and apparently every comedian is somehow racist, homophobic, and possibly a pedophile, then there has to be real stakes. Otherwise we’re just pissing in the wind. So, we get these massive campaigns targeting whoever is, that day, a racist or a rapist or whatever else the online hordes have decided that person is. A large slice of online culture swipes left on a person, place, or thing, and then has to go on [insert social media platform here] and post exactly why they swiped left, and how that person, place, or thing has been personally offensive to them.
Like Tinder, these cancellations have real-life consequences. If you’re a well-intentioned but clueless person, maybe you make an apology afterward and hunker down for a while. If you’re some stupid joker that makes some stupid joke, maybe you have to change your name and live in oblivion forever.
And here’s the thing: It’s obviously bad to be racist or homophobic and beyond bad to sexually assault anyone. Basically, everyone agrees on this except certain elected officials. But the pace and speed with which people are branded as one thing—which then becomes their log line forever—is crazy. We all think prominent people are kind of our friends, and that we actually know them, and then we decide that nobody should ever know them ever again. Which is insane.
But you—yes you, reader—can fight this. It’s super simple. First, take a deep breath. Second, log off. Third, go smell some flowers or something and stop pretending you know famous people. It’s demented.