Your Voice: The fine line between cancel culture and cyberbullying; how to stay connected during Covid (long letters)

Kathleen Wong
  • We must be cautious and make sure social justice ideas are not used to bully people, one reader writes
  • Constant isolation during coronavirus has a negative impact on our mental health, so it is important to find connection wherever we can
Kathleen Wong |

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How do you feel about the concept of cancel culture? Photo: Shutterstock

Have something to say? Send us a letter using this Google form.

A need to rethink cancel culture

Venus Wong, The University of Hong Kong

Venus Wong from the University of Hong Kong.

“Cancel culture”, which refers to the act of boycotting people (usually a well-known figure), famous brands or even shows and movies due to what some consider to be offensive acts or remarks, isn’t new. For example, many Chinese celebrities have been “cancelled” by internet users.

This shows free speech can effect meaningful social change.

But the freedom to express your feelings is important. Instead, in some instances, we see the opposite: an attempt to silence those who question certain rules or attitudes.

Concerns abound about free speech at the Olympics

Cancel culture has been gradually transformed from raising awareness of social justice to a screening or even censorship of free speech.

Any netizen may promote the expulsion of any person because of their opinions. This may allow only politically correct speech to exist on the internet, thereby limiting the space for free speech.

Everyone has the right to voice their viewpoint, even if it is offensive, unjust, or insane. This fundamental freedom is subject to legal restrictions, and people who use the media or the media itself should not be given the power to screen or censor other people’s views.

Every coin has two sides, and we must ensure that cancel culture is not turning into a form of cyberbullying.

It’s important to hold people accountable, but there’s a fine line between accountability and bullying. Photo: Shutterstock

As a Save the Children Youth Ambassador, I learned about the impact of cyberbullying on teenagers. According to a Young Voices report, nearly one out of every four young people never or seldom feels safe on the internet. Some young people believe that the online community is hostile.

The original goal of cancel culture was to encourage the public to recognise the unfairness of certain attitudes or actions towards ethnic groups, showing collective determination to rectify the issue.

Nevertheless, there is a question that all of us should ask ourselves: what thoughts must be correct, and what type of ideas must be considered erroneous? Are those beliefs challenging common principles in society undoubtedly wrong? Who knows if the ethical standards we establish today will not be severely criticised in a decade’s time?

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Staying connected during the Covid-19 pandemic

Kathleen Wong, Good Hope School

Kathleen Wong from Good Hope School.

Life is changing very fast these days. Every day, relationships end and companies fold. But over the past two years, people have been exposed to the uncertainty and unpredictability of life, accompanied by seemingly never-ending, anxiety-filled isolation.

On the rare occasions we leave our homes, we can see the streets are much quieter now, with many people working from home and schools suspended due to the fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Restaurants and shopping malls are also less crowded as people stay away as the number of infections surge.

We pick up our phones to cancel lunch and dating plans we had made weeks ago when life seemed to have returned to some sort of normalcy.

How information overload affects your attention span during Covid

The pandemic has isolated us and affected our way of life. We cannot have face-to-face meetings with our friends and family any more.

As a result, many people are feeling depressed and anxious. Our laughter-filled lunch hours with friends, schoolmates or co-workers have been replaced with us sitting in front of a computer screen. The distance between people, both physically and emotionally, has grown.

What’s more, families who live abroad have been cut off from their loved ones for more than two years. This deepens the feeling of disconnection. But there are ways to rebuild relationships.

Make sure to stay in touch with your friends and family - however you can. Photo: Shutterstock

Zoom meetings or phone calls provide a tool for interacting with schoolmates, friends, co-workers and clients. They are the closest thing to normal that we have right now.

But our conversations may start to dry up sometimes. When this happens, try to talk about things you would like to do after the pandemic is over. Have fun and discuss all your crazy ideas. This helps you to get excited about the future and eager to speak to one another again, with possibly more additions to your bucket list.

Although cinemas are closed, that does not mean we cannot watch films or shows with our friends any more. Try watching a film together with your friend at home, then text or call each other to discuss parts that you found interesting. It’s a great way to find some common ground with your friend again, because you cannot meet them regularly.

Teens say Instagram has had a negative impact on their mental health

You can also read books, watch videos or podcasts, or listen to songs with your friends.

The main idea is to stay connected as human beings.

The pandemic may have taken away many opportunities from us, but that does not mean we can’t create some of our own to stay connected with each other.

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