A Self-Care Starter Pack For Anyone Who Has Ever Been Cancelled On The Internet
Here is what to do when the internet mob is trying to burn you at the virtual stake.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | May 23, 2023
Being dragged on the internet and social media can be a brutally humbling experience, especially when you do not know what you did wrong. While public figures usually bear the brunt of such 'media trials,' anyone can be cancelled these days.
Being canceled can be the result of an actual misstep, an ambiguous statement or action that snowballed because of the algorithm, or even a harmless expression that was misconstrued. The pain of all three scenarios, however, is equally ruthless.
If you fear waking up one day and finding out that you've been cancelled by the people of the internet, here are three steps of emergency self-care that can help you handle the situation maturely.
Step 1: Step away from the crime scene
You may want to justify yourself or answer every single allegation or question being thrown your way. However, doing so might only add fuel to the fire. Your responses might be too emotional or coming from a defensive place. The last thing you want to do after being cancelled is say something even more incriminating because of pure anger.
Research published in The Journal of Psychology explains that people derive social validation and social feedback from such platforms. Trying to explain yourself in the middle of a storm of 'retweetable' opinions might be a futile exercise. This is because people are not just commenting to be heard, they are also doing it for likes, engagement, and clout. Your impulsive reaction won't just be scrutinized for its content, but also its tone, hidden messages, and 'ulterior motives.'
This is why it is important to take a temporary break from social media so that you can think about your situation objectively without being triggered by a new tweet or 'hot take' every minute. It is advisable to log out from all social media and leave everything as it is, without tampering with, editing, deleting, or posting anything impulsively.
Step 2: Show yourself compassion first
You may feel the urge to correct or punish yourself in the immediate aftermath of being canceled. The flood of negative reactions can force you to believe that you may have said or done something despicable, regardless of what the truth of the situation is.
Exercising self-compassion can help you in moments like these and stop you from doomscrolling your way into a self-loathing spiral. It will help you acknowledge and relieve the anxiety and uncertainty you might be experiencing.
Not just that, a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin explains that self-compassion can also help people in admitting to their mistakes and being kind to themselves in spite of them. This can ensure that you won't deny the truth of the situation, however bad it may be.
Ask yourself what you need at that moment. Do you need someone to listen to you? Or do you want to be left alone? Do you want advice from a professional? Or do you want the physical presence of a loved one?
Once you have composed yourself, you can then go ahead and analyze what actually caused the cancelling in the first place.
Step 3: Re-evaluate your actions with humility
You cannot fight a faceless army of netizens and bots alone. In fact, viewing the situation as a 'you against the world' scenario can be quite damaging to your self-esteem and worldview. Instead, it is advisable, once the initial barrage of backlash has blown over, to review the situation with humility.
There is a strong chance you may have had a moment of ignorance or even miscommunication. You will never be able to get to the root of the issue if your anger or hurt is blinding you. Being humble and open to correction helps you get back in touch with your rationality, which might be your strongest weapon against a virtual witch hunt.
Research even suggests that approaching a heated situation with humility can actually increase the level of humility in both parties involved in a conversation. This means that being respectful and unassuming won't just help defuse the moral outrage, it might even help you redeem yourself.
No matter how trivial or inconsequential your actions might have been, the internet turning against you can be a scarring experience. But you must remember that you cannot be right all the time and ,sometimes, even being right might not guarantee your safety on the internet. Maintaining a safe distance from social media and taking frequent breaks can help you to not take such incidents too seriously.