Understanding ghosting and cancel culture in the t(w)een world
“He was the love my life – yesterday we were planning on going to the dance together – this morning he blocked me – I don’t know what I did!!
Given how frequently we hear this refrain, we thought we would take a look at the “what” and the “why” when it comes to our t/weens being ghosted and cancelled online (and offline).
There is a distinct difference between ghosting and cancel culture: ghosting is the person being ghosted never knows what they did but if you are cancelled by a group, the apparent reason is thrown out onto various platforms for the whole world to know, discuss and decide upon. It is the kangaroo court of the online world.
1. THE ACTION:
So what exactly is ghosting and cancel culture?
Ghosting involves abruptly cutting off online and offline communication with someone, typically a bestie or boyfriend or girlfriend. From as young as 8 years old we are seeing kids just being left on the side of the online pavement, suddenly friendless with little to NO EXPLANATION. When there is an explanation, it can be devastatingly cruel: “you are too boring for our group” “I met someone else”, “you will never be cool” and possibly the worst “my other friends said I must block you”. Yes, ghosting can be a group decision where a few (typically) girls get together and decide ‘no more comms’, overnight, without real apparent rhyme or reason.
Cancel culture involves calling someone out publicly, denouncing individuals to a whole online community. It often involves celebrities being cancelled for what is perceived to be offensive or problematic behaviour.
2. THE SCOPE: So who is this affecting really?
Ghosting primarily affects personal relationships and communication between individuals. It often leads to huge emotional distress for the person being ghosted. They sit with confusion, isolation, unresolved issues and often we see t/weens ruminate for months on ‘what they did wrong’, this in order to make sense of the very painful sense of online and offline abandonment they feel.
Cancel Culture has a broader scope, impacting both individuals and public figures. It can involve widespread social media campaigns, petitions, and group decisions to hold individuals accountable for their actions or statements.
3. THE ACCOUNTABILTY FACTOR
Ghosting: At KLIKD we really see a distinction in accountability between ghosting and cancel culture. Ghosting represents a lack of accountability as it avoids addressing issues directly and can leave the affected party in the dark about the reasons for the abrupt end of communication.
Cancel Culture in some ways is the opposite – it appears to hold the victim accountable for their actions or statements, often with the goal of bringing about awareness and change. It demands that the person in question acknowledges and addresses their problematic behaviour.
But, and it’s a big but, ironically it doesn’t always hold our group of teen cancellers accountable – It’s important for our teens to understand that they often don’t hold themselves accountable when they cancel someone – they may follow the group’s wish to cancel someone without always doing their own thinking around what their views may be in relation to the issue at stake.
Cancel culture can be very cruel in this regard and often leaves little room for someone to make reparation or apologise for an error in judgement (sometimes one made when they were very young).
Most of our children live on the periphery of watching these online dynamics take place -they live with an awareness that they could be ghosted for no apparent reason, or called upon to participate in cancelling someone else without always understand why. It’s hard not to follow the pack decision so it’s important for us to chat about these issues -below some conversation starters.
1. Have you watched from the side when a friend was ghosted? Explain to me how you see ghosting go down in your world– do you think it is just a way of avoiding a hard conversation or is it just an acceptable way to move on? Do you feel anxious that you could get ghosted by someone or do you think you will just move on too?
2. If someone was in an abusive relationship and they decide to ghost the person-is that justified or should we always try to explain our decisions to ‘move on’.
3. What do you think the upside of cancel culture is in a world where people can say and do anything online? Does it shift their behaviour when they feel that their fans abandon them?
4. “Cancel culture” can sometimes seem like a way to hold people accountable for their actions, but do you think it always achieves this goal? Can you think of any instances where someone deserved a second chance but was cancelled without room for redemption?
5. Imagine if I never allowed you to fix your mistakes or say sorry – should we allow individuals to make amends for their past mistakes or does it depend on the nature of the mistake”
For younger children:
1. Have you ever seen one of your friends feeling left out or sad because another friend stopped talking to them? How did that make YOU feel when you saw that happen?
2. Giving someone the silent treatment online or at school is really cruel because it makes them wonder what they did wrong? If someone did that to you, would you want to know the reason they didn’t want to be friends anymore or do you think the silent treatment is better?
3. Sometimes people we really admire can do really bad things and then we choose not to have anything to do with them as a way of showing them “it’s not cool” If Taylor Swift kicked a dog on stage do you think blocking all her reels and not buying her music would really help her to change her behaviour?
Sarah and Pam