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Cancel Culture Can Be Toxic to Your Mental Health

Bullying and the Cancel Culture

Last week I blogged about the history of the cancel culture, how social media plays a role, the cancel culture and workplace ethics, and how the cancel culture teams together with the woke culture to shame certain people for their words or actions. In today’s blog I look at the mental health effects of the cancel culture which can be a form of bullying.

One definition of the cancel culture is it is a form of a cultural boycott that allows “marginalized people” to seek accountability where the justice system has failed. A case in point is the rash of unprovoked shootings by the police of black Americans that motivated the offended group, like Black Lives Matter, to seek revenge against the police when the justice system failed. Many groups sought to cancel the offending police officer and even all the police for the actions of a few.

An example of the latter is the Pittsburgh jury that acquitted a white former police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in the back last summer as the young man fled a traffic stop. Video of the incident captured by a local resident and posted online went viral and led to weeks of demonstrations.

Those who engage in cancel culture are often called “woke” or politically correct, as I blogged about on May 10. This group has a long, evolving list of what they deem objectionable. The quick act of ex-communication can take place on a micro-level, e.g., between friends, co-workers, or family members. However, more commonly, cancel culture is a performative act that takes place in a public setting like social media.

The most serious effects of the cancel culture at work are when it turns into bullying. Like bullying, if you have been canceled, it can make you to feel ostracized, socially isolated, and lonely. It can feel as if everyone is giving up on you before you have even had the chance to apologize. Instead of creating a dialogue to help you understand how the offender's actions hurt them, the cancelers shut off all communication with you, essentially robbing you of the opportunity to learn and grow from your mistakes or insensitivities. 

Cancel culture seeks to embarrass the canceler and call them out for their offending behavior. The cancel culture stops supporting them even if they apologize for their mistakes. The reason given is they should have known before doing it. But how can we mend our ways if not given a chance to move on and show we can, indeed, reform our ways given the cancel culture is intolerant. Blog-Banner-22

In a recent poll taken by Harvard CAPS-Harris, a majority of Americans say they view "cancel culture" as a threat to their freedom. Sixty-four percent of respondents said that there is "a growing cancel culture" that is a threat to their freedom, while 36 percent said they did not view it as a threat to their freedom. 

Additionally, the poll found that 36 percent of Americans said cancel culture is a "big problem," while 32 percent called it a "moderate problem." Another 20 percent said it was a "small problem" and 13 percent said it is "not a problem." 

Cancel culture is toxic for our mental health because it does not allow us to be human, make mistakes, apologize for them and then give people 2nd chances to reverse their behavior.

Anxiety and Depression is at an all-time high with the cancel culture because it can be very isolating and lonely as you feel everyone gave up on you before you could even apologize or correct your mistakes.

The problem with the cancel culture is it does not pick and choose when and who the cancel. It seems to adopt a no tolerance stance, and that is dangerous to the mental health of those who committed the presumably offensive behavior.

In its current form, cancel culture is anonymous, fueled by a politically correct mentality that relies on the “thought police” to direct its behavior, it is intensely polarizing – “I am right, you are wrong.” It teaches us that if someone does something wrong, or champions someone or something that we may not like or agree with, then we must stop supporting them immediately. No grey areas allowed: they are cancelled, they are finished, and their name is attached to the #IsOverParty hashtag to prove it.

Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, The Ethics Sage, on May 11, 2021. You can sign up for his newsletter and learn more about his activities at: Follow him on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: