I was recently presenting on Gen Z, discussing the impact of cancel culture on young people today. Someone in the audience asked what cancel culture is so thought I would talk about it briefly here. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as: "a way of behaving in a society or group, especially on social media, in which it is common to completely reject and stop supporting someone because they have said or done something that offends you."
While cancel culture is currently playing out in significant ways in our society as anyone from celebrities to CEOs can get "cancelled" for saying or doing something that is offensive to someone or a group of people, it is also a very real part of young people's personal lives. A 2019 New York Time's article, Tale's From the Teenage Cancel Culture, offered some powerful quotes from teenagers on the effects of cancel culture. Neelam, a 17-year-old explained, cancel culture is "a way to take away someone’s power and call out the individual for being problematic in a situation,” Neelam said. "I don’t think it’s being sensitive. I think it’s just having a sense of being observant and aware of what’s going on around you."
The article quotes another 17-year-old, Ben, who highlights one of the difficulties of cancel culture. He said, "people should be held accountable for their actions, whether they’re famous or not, but that canceling someone 'takes away the option for them to learn from their mistakes and kind of alienates them.'” The Cambridge Dictionary agreed that "the main argument against cancel culture is that it doesn't enable people who have wronged society the opportunity to apologize and learn from their mistakes."
Young people today are often living in fear of saying or doing something, or associating with someone or something, that could get them cancelled. They can also struggle with understanding the power of unconditional love, repentance, forgiveness, restoration and redemption in a culture that simple cancels those who make mistakes or do something that is deemed inappropriate or offensive.
As parents, leaders, and mentors, we need to model the reality that love, forgiveness, and restoration can exist in relationships. By providing relationships that are strong, safe, and supportive, we can help young people gain perspective and hope to live humbly, honestly, and confidently.
For more on this topic, check out this month's episode of The Leading Tomorrow podcast.
This month, we are celebrating the release of Daniel Generation in Spanish and Audiobook (English)! The print edition of the Spanish book is now available on our website. The Spanish ebook and English audiobook are coming later this month. Watch for updates! To celebrate, we are including an excerpt from the book below. Check out this month's The Leading Tomorrow Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts for more on Gen Z's pursuit of happiness!
From Daniel Generation, chapter five:
In 1985, 25 years before the iPad, NYU professor, Neil Postman wrote an insightful little book titled Amusing Ourselves to Death. In it, he discusses the power of technology to create a culture of “uninformed pleasure seekers.” He further explains how media has slowly infiltrated our culture resulting in the promotion of entertainment as the standard of truth. Postman discusses writer Aldous Huxley’s vision described in Brave New World. The book was published in 1932 and set in London in the year 2540. Huxley understood that no “Big Brother is required to deprive people…people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.” In Brave New World, Huxley depicts the reality of people controlled by their desire for pleasure, rather than by tyranny or pain. A century ago, Huxley feared that what we love, our need for pleasure, would ruin us.
Technology presents several real dangers for us today. First, is its highly addictive nature. Nicholas Kardaras, in his book Glow Kids, explains what he calls the “dopamine tickle.” “Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter that’s the most critical element in the addiction process. When a person performs an action that satisfies a need or fulfills a desire, dopamine is released…into a cluster of nerve cells that are associated with pleasure and reward, also known as the brain’s pleasure center.” This triggers a signal to repeat the activity again.
Technology consistently provides a “dopamine” tickle. Simon Sinek discusses its addictive impact. “The youth of today want to do good…the problem is…they're all addicted to dopamine. We pretty much raised an entire generation addicted to the ding, buzz, beep or flash of their phone.” Text message and social media notifications give us the same dopamine reaction as gambling, drugs, and alcohol. In some cases, we can’t wait a few minutes to look at our phone. Playing video games, posting to social media, or watching YouTube videos can produce addictions if we fail to manage our actions and time.
Technology’s power includes its pervading influence. It guides our behaviors and perspectives by getting us to click on ads, buy things online, or read the articles fed to us. Technology today allows companies to track our every click and enables the constant barrage of personalized ads, products and information right to the device in our pocket or under our pillow. Daniel encountered a powerful program of training that sought to influence his loyalties and attention. He completed the training but controlled its power to inform or control him. We must do the same with technology. Technology provides us with valuable tools, but possesses the power to manipulate our time, attention, and loyalties. If we simply respond to, rather than manage, its influence in our lives we risk responding to the powerful dings, beeps, and flashes of our devices rather than to God.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!