Our culture of extreme polarization and disrespect discovered a new tool that could potentially become more cyberbullying; it’s called cancelling others. This refers to a behavior usually played out online that allows people to cut someone out of conversations and groups. If Jane has said or done something that Tess doesn’t like, Tess can “cancel her” by rebuking her and encouraging others to pile on with condemnations. It’s a way to call others out for not conforming to norms or what’s cool or appropriate, resulting in them being ostracized, belittled, and excluded. I have some concerns about this behavior, but also some ideas about how it can be valuable. Let’s start with potential negatives.

I find a lot of girls today willing to write off peers because of one misspoken word or action. This is especially concerning because of the misunderstandings that so easily happen with online communications that are devoid of personal contact, i.e. body language, tone of voice. There is also a real possibility of a flurry of judgments and piling on despite most participants being unaware of context or past history between people. It’s like gossip 2.0. Many girls will join in on this canceling process as a way to fit in, be included, be a part of the hot topic going around, and as an unhealthy way to connect. The person canceled often isn’t warned of being called out and has no recourse because they are shut out of further communication. I worry that canceling can quickly become a way to bully people or as a tool for revenge. Leaving people out can become an aggressive way to exert power over others.

On the flip side, canceling others can be used as a way to set clear, firm boundaries. I have encouraged countless girls to block ex dating partners or toxic friends who spew negatives at them. It’s not a first line of defense; it’s what you are pushed to do after the person has ignored boundaries you have set. I want girls to be open to different ways of looking at issues, to get into the shoes of others and hear their perspective. We need to teach girls how to have civil discourse without aggressive rhetoric. Listening to others gives you an appreciation of why they may speak or act in the way that they do. I want girls to try to understand people instead of just judging them and writing them off. That is the only way to have an influence on others. I have heard the term “call-outs” as another way to describe canceling others. I prefer the opposite which is “call-ins” which means to be gently led to understand your error. 

I also encourage girls to adopt an “I’m an ass, you’re an ass” mentality. If someone acts in a way that you disapprove of, remind yourself that you’re not perfect, you make mistakes, and the same goes for others. For repeat offenders, girls can learn to lower their expectations for that person so that they are less affected by them and less disappointed when relationship mistakes are made. Thus, I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect; I’m an ass, you’re an ass. It’s important to not judge people by rumors or past reputation because it’s possible people grow up and change into better versions of themselves. 

So, remind your daughters to not jump into a canceling pool and drown with the crowd. Check things out vs rely on gossip or texts taken out of context. Share your concerns with the person who has made a mistake, state your needs and set a clear boundary, and then see if they respect it. If they keep making mistakes, one way to hold them accountable is by personally blocking them on social media. Be careful about falling into the trap of following the canceling crowd as a way to fit in or connect. Try to see them through the eyes of understanding and remind yourself that you’ve made mistakes in the past too. 

Remember that canceling someone is a powerful tool that can easily become abusive. Perhaps it’s best to try to understand and influence people. 

Coming soon! Dr. Jordan’s new book: She Leads: A Practical Guide for Raising Girls Who Advocate, Influence, and Lead, arriving first week of march

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