For the past 5-6 years, social media has been an integral part of our lives. Through social media, we are able to keep in touch with friends and family, share content, and reach larger audiences much faster. However, as easy as it is to express our opinions on social media, it is just as easy for these opinions to be shamed and criticized on these platforms.
As a result of posting in the midst of such a judgmental culture, online public shaming has been rising. This idea is known as “cancel culture” and is prevalent on most college campuses in the United States.
While it is important to call out people whose rhetoric is harmful towards others (especially celebrities who profit off of their actions), cancel culture can be extremely destructive when brought to college campuses. Here are four reasons why cancel culture on college campuses is destructive.
1. Leaves no room for growth
This is arguably one of the most detrimental effects of cancel culture. By “canceling” a person for tweeting an ignorant remark, it also cancels the opportunity for an individual to learn and grow from their mistakes. But how could they not know what they said was wrong? Isn’t that just common sense? No.
Many college students often forget that not everyone received the same kind of education as they did and that we all grew up in different backgrounds. For example: A queer BIPOC woman, who grew up in California, a predominantly blue state, has personal experience with the struggles and microaggressions queer women and BIPOcs face.
Additionally, she has grown up in a more liberal environment making it easier for her to understand the liberal environment of a college campus. However, a straight, white, cis-gendered man growing up in rural Pennsylvania, a fairly homogeneous area in a red-swinging state, may not be able to understand the daily microaggressions that POCs face.
This is because he has most likely never been exposed to that environment. Therefore, if this man posts a tweet stating that he does not understand “what the big deal is” if a POC is asked, “Where are you really from?”, people should take it as an opportunity to educate him instead of “canceling” him for not being able to understand.
“If we completely cut people down every time they make a mistake or have a mistake from ten years ago, people are gonna feel like there’s no value in learning or progressing whatsoever because you are punished forever for the sins you no longer stand by,” stated Good Place actress, Jameela Jamil, when discussing the negative effects of cancel culture on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
“Ten years ago, I was problematic in my thinking, and there were loads of things I didn’t know and didn’t understand. Had I been canceled at that moment, I would have never gone on to spend all my time fighting for women’s rights or fighting for the people, who are marginalized.”
By canceling someone, you are leaving no room for them to grow from their actions or learn more. You are not only taking away their platform, but also, their ability to learn from their actions.
2. Feeds into a herd mentality
A large part of cancel culture is the herd mentality behind the process. As in many situations that involve large-scale decision-making, people often tend to go along with things due to the fact that “everyone is doing it.”
This mentality is also responsible for the immense popularity of certain fashion trends or songs. However, in the context of cancel culture, it has detrimental consequences.
“When cancel culture is enforced, it encourages everyone to gang up against one person just because everyone else is, and sometimes, without knowing the full story,” described a student of the historically women’s college, Bryn Mawr.
“Our school is especially small and tight-knit so things like these run rampant very quickly. Information can easily be distorted with no question. I have seen this before where people will ‘cancel’ someone just because other people have, but they don’t actually know the background story or anything.”
Small liberal arts college campuses like Bryn Mawr College are not the only places where this herd-like mentality exists. “There was this kid in my year and nasty rumors about him started floating around and everyone took that story as truth at face value and started ‘canceling’ him without even knowing, or meeting him, myself included,” stated a student from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
“One of my good friends had become really close to him, so I met him as well. One day he opened up to me and told me his side of the story, which was completely different and made it seem like he was the actual victim. [The fact that] he went through a second ordeal over canceling despite supposedly being the victim in the first place was saddening.”
The student describes how to this day they do not know exactly who was in the right or wrong, but emphasizes that “we never really know people and should not try to assert ourselves or make such strong judgments on their character with limited information.”
3. Does not promote tolerance
The definition of being liberal is to be open to new behavior and try and understand the viewpoints of others. College campuses are considered to be hubs of primarily liberal/ progressive thinking. While it is great that places of education promote progress and non-traditional thinking, it often leads the student body to dismiss and ostracize individuals who are more conservative-leaning.
It feeds the “my way or the highway” mentality that fuels cancel culture. This mentality disregards the need for discussion and respect towards everyone’s beliefs. While there are certain things that are morally incorrect on every front (i.e. sexual assault, homicide, genocide), it is not correct to shut down a person’s opinion simply because it does not match with yours.
An example of this occurred at Bryn Mawr College during the 2016 election. Andi Moritz, an 18-year-old freshman at the time, had asked on a Facebook group if anyone would like to share an Uber to a nearby Trump rally. Bryn Mawr, being a primarily liberal-leaning school, did not take well to this post, leading to a flood of negative comments and name-calling such as “white supremacist” and “bigot”.
These comments caused her extreme emotional distress. Moritz described how she used the Suicide Hotline and emailed her teachers that she was not feeling well and would not be in class the next day. Mortiz eventually ended up leaving Bryn Mawr the next year.
“In this big bubble of people who will echo your opinion, you can throw something out there and if it’s a liberal opinion, you’ve got a ton of people who jump on and say: ‘Wow, you’re right, I agree with you.’ This is a big problem” stated Moritz.
In order for problems to truly go away, we must try to understand another’s perspective instead of “canceling” them. Trump may be an extremely controversial figure, but it is our responsibility to facilitate discussion and make sure we fully understand people’s viewpoints and intentions before publicly shaming them.
4. Creates animosity and escalated situations
Oftentimes, cancel culture can create extreme animosity within communities and escalate situations beyond repair. On March 4th, Micheal Carducci from the group, ‘Coming Out’ Ministries, was invited to speak at Bryn Mawr College by a student club. The event was marketed by the club as a healthy conversation about love, sexuality, and the church.
After attending the event, many students felt as if the speaker was encouraging conversion therapy, or the idea of “converting” a person in the LGBTQ+ community to a “straight” person. The students of Bryn Mawr took it upon themselves to address the situation by expressing their grievances towards the student who invited the speaker. However, many of these comments turned into vicious comments.
Shortly after this situation occurred, Bryn Mawr’s Dean of the Undergraduate College sent out a statement to the student body saying that the speaker’s message was against the values Bryn Mawr held as an institution, but she “urges all students to be mindful of their rhetoric and how they are using social media” and that “all forms of harassment and bullying violate the Honor Code and the values of Bryn Mawr College.”
In order to preserve the anonymity of the student who invited the speaker, their name and any personal details will not be mentioned. However, Jess Chen, a recent Bryn Mawr alum and friend of the student, was willing to give a statement on the event.
Chen described how many of the people posting comments on social media did not take into account the background and cultural upbringing of the student organizing the event. She also mentioned how many people did not accept the student’s attempt to apologize.
“If you’re angry about the concept, you can be angry at the concept, but when you start attacking a student for inviting someone as a part of an event I think that gets a little ridiculous. The cyberbullying should not escape to the point where she is not safe to go to class,” stated Chen.
Upon doing deeper research on ‘Coming Out Ministries,’ it seems that the organization may encourage some problematic rhetoric. The website links videos such as Lesbian Christian Changes Her Mind, that urge members of the LGBTQIA+ community to abandon and suppress their identities.
The Bryn Mawr student body had a right to feel hurt, but not to cyberbully or personally attack the student organizer. Those who felt hurt could have facilitated an open discussion that made an effort to understand the multiple perspectives on the issue.
But they said something very hurtful! How can we just stand by and continue to do nothing?
The idea behind cancel culture is not toxic in and of itself. Cancel culture was used to prevent celebrities and public figures, who endorsed hateful ideas such as racism, sexism, and homophobia from making profiting off the public.
However, it has morphed into something problematic. People have taken cancel culture to an extreme by applying it to normal people, who are not profiting off of the general public, and are thereby not taking on the responsibilities of a public figure.
Therefore, cancel culture on college campuses should switch to “call out” culture. Call-out culture is respectfully pointing out someone’s misunderstanding, explaining why their words might be hurtful, and giving them an opportunity to rethink their actions and words. Most importantly, it entails others listening to their response and apology.
“Cancelling means De-Platforming someone and calling for their job and position of power to be taken away; often for the foreseeable future. I rarely support cancellation unless the person/ company, has done irrevocable harm or hurts more people than they help, or refuses to shift on their dangerous/bigoted views, and behavior” stated Jamil in response to the difference between cancel and call-out culture.
Ultimately, the root of an issue does not go away simply by canceling someone. “I don’t think anyone was ever officially canceled, otherwise certain people wouldn’t have Grammys, wouldn’t have Oscars. Certain people wouldn’t be where they are in their positions,” stated Demi Lovato, someone, who has been canceled many times before on an episode of Jameela Jamil’s Podcast, “I Weigh.”
In order to make a significant change, it has to be slow, persistent change. It has to come from a place of understanding. Individuals must recognize that canceling does not make the problem go away, but causes it to resurface in another form.
“People seem to think that if our trauma lies in one person and if we cancel one person, then that is easier than actually addressing systemically how this issue is dealt with on-campus,” stated Jess Chen.
“[They] feel some sort of comfort in isolating the issue.” The world is not just black and white. There will always be ambiguity and multiple perspectives on an issue. Canceling should only be used as a last resort when a person refuses to learn and acknowledge their mistake as something hurtful. It is the societal duty of our generation to promote call-out culture and “cancel” cancel culture.
The Devastating Side of Fast Fashion
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is cheap, mass-produced clothing that is often made trendy by celebrities and fashion designers. Retailers such as H&M, Forever21, Zara, Gap, Fashion Nova and Topshop are some of the most popular fast fashion brands although there are various others just in the U.S. Prices at these retail stores are low, which is part of the problem with fast fashion. If you buy a five-dollar shirt, you are likely to dispose of it more quickly than if the shirt is $25. This is because we tend to see cheap clothes as disposable. Over half of fast fashion pieces are thrown away in less than a year.
Environmental Effects of Fast Fashion
Teens and other shoppers sometimes don’t think twice about where their clothes are coming from or if the brands they shop are sustainable. But fast fashion comes at a price, and the environment is paying for it.
The fashion industry produces around 8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. And the production of clothing requires a lot of water. Making a single cotton shirt requires 455 gallons (1,750 liters) of water, and one pair of jeans requires 780 gallons (3,000 liters). This has damaging effects on the environment, especially when so many of these clothing items are barely used.
The fabric the clothing is made out of is a source of many environmental issues. Over 60% of materials are synthetic, which means that when this fabric ends up in landfills, it will not break down. And unfortunately, around 85% of textile waste ends up in landfills in the U.S.
Mass Production of Clothing
Environmental sustainability isn’t the only concern when it comes to fast fashion. The production of the clothing is unethical. Garment workers are paid very low wages and typically suffer from hazardous working conditions. Many of these workers are located in developing countries that have low minimum wages. In Bangladesh, women who work in clothing factories often work upwards of 12 hours a day. They are paid minimum wage, which in Bangladesh is $68 a month, an insufficient salary.
Fast fashion brands are choosing to sell cheap, mass-produced clothing and to pay workers the lowest possible wage. If wages are “too high” in one country, fashion companies will sometimes hire their workers in a different country with lower wages. Garment workers are not paid for the true value of their labor.
The Popularization of Fast Fashion
Social media culture has popularized fast fashion to the point where it is now the new norm. Influencers and celebrities will post a picture in an outfit and then are never seen wearing that outfit again, normalizing the idea that you can’t be seen wearing the same clothes twice. I think many teenagers have learned from these influencers that they idolize, and these teens are contributing to fast fashion without necessarily knowing.
Fast fashion is also being popularized by trends. There is a quick turnover in trends, and many stores keep up with trends by coming out with new collections every week. With each season, there are new “must-have” items, and our society has become accustomed to buying new clothes each season. The average consumer purchases 60% more clothing nowadays compared with15 years ago. In order to combat the culture of fast fashion, we as consumers must start changing our habits.
How to do Your Part in Saving the Earth
- Educate yourself about sustainable fashion brands.
There are many companies that are ethical and have fair trade products. These brands are eco-friendly, which sometimes means they are more pricey. But remember, you are less likely to get rid of more expensive clothing quickly.
- Buy secondhand clothing.
Find a local thrift store to shop at. Or shop secondhand items from home. For example, Depop is a popular app where you can buy used clothing. This is a cheaper option than many sustainable brands but still helps the environment by reducing textile waste. It’s also a great option if you are a college student on a budget.
- Donate, reuse or sell old clothes.
Rather than throwing away old clothing, donate it to your local charity or Goodwill store. It is also very beneficial to reuse old clothing. You can turn the pants you’ve grown out of into shorts, or make old shirts into dust rags. There’s almost always another use for your old clothing. Even selling old clothes on Depop, for example, is a good way for clothing to be reused and for making a little money.
- Don’t overwash your clothing.
Obviously, it is important to do laundry and wash your clothes, but there is such a thing as overwashing. When you wash clothing too frequently, it shortens its lifespan by shrinking or fading the clothes. This often causes the clothing to end up in a landfill far too soon. Overwashing also breaks down fibers of synthetic materials into microfibers that can end up in oceans. This can have detrimental effects on the environment, specifically on marine life.
By changing our shopping habits and being aware of the dangers of fast fashion, we can reduce fast fashion’s negative impacts.
Are Plant-Based Diets The Future or a Thing of The Past?
Sticking to a plant-based diet is a thing that people have always done, but recently has made a comeback as a popular lifestyle choice. People on plant-based diets eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, tubers, grains, and seeds, or concoctions that consist of one or more of those ingredients. You will not see people on these diets eating that much meat, such as beef, poultry, and fish, nor eggs or dairy, however, these foods are not always given up completely.
Plant-based diets have existed and been followed for a very long time for various reasons. While some people decide to stop eating animals for moral reasons, others live by a plant-based diet because of the many health benefits. Different forms of plant-based diets include being vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, fruitarian, and flexitarian, which allows for the consumption of some meat and dairy.
Just because someone decides to live a plant-based lifestyle does not mean they have to give up eating meat or dairy completely. Most plant-based diets are flexible in the sense that you will not be breaking any rules if you eat a piece of meat here and there. Eating plant-based is more of a mindset in which one prioritizes eating plant-derived foods rather than eating mostly meat, fish, or dairy. A whole-food diet is a diet where people eat foods that are as close to their natural state as they can be, staying away from all processed foods, added sugars, and unnatural chemicals.
A popular plant-based diet is called the whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet, which consists of elements of both a plant-based diet as well as a whole-foods diet where a person does not eat any processed foods, artificial sweeteners, added sugars, refined grains, or hydrogenated oils. The WFPB diet also recommends people stick to eating mostly whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Are Plant-Based Diets Beneficial?
There are many studies and claims saying that eating a strictly plant-based diet is in many ways incredibly beneficial for people’s health. These studies say that some benefits of this diet can include, lower total cholesterol, lower risk of developing type two diabetes, improved cardiovascular health, improved glycemic control, loss of weight if needed, protection from various forms of cancer, improved neurocognitive function, and prevention and management of Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study in 2017 that looked at the effects of a fully conformant WFPB diet and compared them to the effects of someone on a plant-based diet but also ate processed foods. The results showed that people on WFPB diets were much less likely to have any sort of heart disease, while a plant-based diet that still includes processed food actually increases the overall risk of heart disease. More research that has been done over time has shown that sticking to a WFPB diet can also possibly decrease a person’s requirement for certain medications such as statins, medication for blood pressure, and various diabetes drugs.
Even though there are many potential benefits of a plant-based diet, there have also been studies that show the opposite, claiming that plant-based diets can be more detrimental to someone’s health than beneficial.
“A plant-based diet sounds like it’d be inherently healthy, but that’s not always the case. Refined grains, added sugars, and vegan fast-food are all plant-based—but not the healthiest. Fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and some proteins make for more nutritionally sound choices,” Dietitian Nutritionist Kelly Plowe said.
Ensuring that you stick to the right diet that isn’t only plant-based but also naturally healthy is essential in getting the proper benefits that a plant-based diet can lead to.
Some downsides of following a WFPB diet include the fact that like any diet, it becomes an obligation to pay more attention when preparing and planning what you are going to eat, as it is hard to constantly find affordable healthy foods that are not processed. Also, once meat has been omitted from a diet, it becomes a challenge to consume the amount of protein and other nutrients that are recommended and required to survive.
People who follow these diets need to ensure that they eat enough protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B12. It is true that eating a plant-based diet can potentially lead to a lower intake of necessary daily nutrients. However, if the proper time and effort are put into meal planning, eating the right nutrients should not be a huge problem for most people who want to stick to WFPB or any plant-based diet.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has dietary guidelines that include recommendations on what foods to eat to maintain a healthy plant-based diet that still includes a bit of meat. Some of the foods that the USDA mentions include vegetables, dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, and green beans. Fruits, berries, grains, oats lean meats such as chicken breast, fish, or turkey breast. Beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy such as milk and cheese, as well as natural oils are also on the list.
While not eating meat and dairy technically does not meet the USDA guidelines of a healthy, well-balanced diet, it has been shown and proven that with the right planning, it is absolutely possible to take in everything necessary in order to continue to thrive by following a plant-based diet.
Pounds over Promise: The Cycle of Diet Culture and New Years Resolutions
At the start of a new year, everyone wants to start fresh. A few new styles, some changes to the daily routine, and sometimes, a big resolution. A very popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. How to do it? There are answers everywhere! Scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, there’s bound to be someone talking about a new diet they’re trying. Influencers have been infamous for peddling dangerous diets to fanbases of young women and girls. Even mothers are not free from their reach. Bloggers like lonijane on Instagram showed how her body looked before and after cheating on her vegan diet. The combination of New Year’s resolutions and these various diets is a recipe for disaster. Diet culture around the first month of the New Year is intense and even dangerous.
What is “diet culture”?
Diet culture is described as a desire to lose weight at all costs, and puts losing weight over wellbeing. It is a combination of advertisements and what the advertisements make us feel. The feelings of inferiority or discomfort with your body are precisely what the industry feeds off of. Whether it’s a new diet every week, or even directly associating worth with weight, it is hard to escape.
Especially around the start of the New Year, diet culture is pervasive. Even on January 1, it’s been shown that topics surrounding dieting and exercise spike in search volume. Some particularly cruel advertisements from gyms feed into a sense of inferiority and reap the profits. In 2017, about 10.8% of subscriptions to over 6,400 gyms happened in January. The nature of what a diet should be is also constantly changing: keto, juice cleanses, the baby food diet, paleo… reading through the advertisements is enough to give someone whiplash.
Impact of influencers on diet culture
The advertisements don’t only come from the corporations— or not directly. Influencers are a major way for corporations to boost their product. Ads are nothing new, but the personal nature of Instagram, where people will also post parts of their life, is something different. What’s especially worrisome is that these influencers often have a huge following of minors, intentionally or not. More than one-third of teenagers in Germany aged 14 to 17 deliberately seek out influencers. Over 84% of the content from female influencers is related to health, diet, and fitness. Attractive and uniform, they promote a singular way of living and looking. It’s easy and profitable for them to do it that way. The issue is that there are a wide variety of bodies that exist. There is no “one size fits all” for health. Allergies, chronic conditions, and genes are all important factors.
How might influencers impact young people later in life, girls especially, as they can closely control their diet?
Guilty over existence
There are worries about “quarantine pounds”, as people have been stuck inside due to COVID-19. Nutritionists are worried that individuals will be more susceptible to weight loss advertisements. The guilt over quarantine pounds stack up, on top of the pre-existing guilt instilled by advertisements.
A poignant way that advertisers promote body shame is “before and after” shots. To show the efficacy of their product or program, diet companies will show the amount of weight lost after using their product. These pictures directly associate the “before” picture with bad or undesirable. People with these bodies are being shamed, and repeatedly seeing those images will have a lasting impression. Especially at the start of the year, when seeing one’s stomach after holiday meals, insecurity digs in.
These insecurities start young, but it’s not only by influencers. A study of mother-daughter pairs showed that daughters of dieting moms would start dieting before they were eleven. Given how close-quartered people are during quarantine, it’s likely that children will pick up on their family’s habits. Recently, there have been movements to stop mentioning weight around children. Whether the discussion is about the child’s weight or the parent’s, the children pick up on the criticism. Even people who aren’t parents can have a lasting impression. “She said, as if talking to herself, ‘Pretty face… have you ever thought about trying to lose weight?’” wrote a NYT contributor on her teenage experience with a friend’s mother. These comments linger and dig in, and around the holidays, they are especially amplified.
Hope for body positivity
Very recently, with stars like Lizzo proudly showing their nontraditional bodies, there has been an emphasis on accepting various looks. Plus-size models have made their ways onto catwalks and into major magazines, without necessarily acknowledging that they are plus size. YouTubers have made videos specifically showing how influencers may take their photos, so young girls may feel better about themselves. While the holidays are still bombarded with advertisements and commercials, there are still people reminding you of your worth.
Don’t feel ashamed for enjoying holiday food or eating more during winter! There’s a reason bears hibernate, and given the exhaustion of 2020, I think we all deserve it.