Gen Z is Ready to Cancel ‘Cancel Culture’

By: Georgia | Last updated: Apr 05, 2024

Generation Z, often mired in broad stereotypes, is frequently linked with the modern cancel culture movement. The prevailing view is that this generation is hyper-sensitive and reactive, especially in the digital sphere.

But how much of this perception is based on reality, and how much is mere myth? In this exploration, we aim to unpack the genuine sentiments of Gen Z.

Gen Z: Champions of Cancel Culture?

Within academic and professional circles, there’s a growing belief that Gen Z is characterized by their swift judgments and their readiness to “cancel” anything or anyone.

A vintage typewriter on a grassy surface with a white sheet of paper inserted. The words 'CANCEL CULTURE' are prominently typed in bold letters

Source: Markus Winkler/Pexels

This presumed inclination to rapidly react, especially on social media platforms, has come to define them in the eyes of older generations.

The Vocal Few Versus the Silent Majority

It is undeniably true that several members of Generation Z have been at the forefront of notable cancel culture campaigns.

A group of protesters outside a building with a large red sign reading '180 STUDIOS'. They hold a banner that says 'CANCEL LONDON FASHION WEEK'

Source: Getty Images

However, emerging studies and surveys hint that this vocal subset might not accurately mirror the broader sentiments of their generational peers.

What Surveys Reveal About Gen Z's Stance

Morning Consult undertook a comprehensive survey with the intent to fathom the depths of generational views on cancel culture.

Teenagers waiting on a train platform. A teen in the foreground looks at his phone while holding a well-used skateboard

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What they unearthed was telling: only 8% of Gen Zers voiced a positive outlook, contrasting sharply with the 55% that viewed it negatively, indicating a significant deviation from popular assumptions.

A Personal Perspective

Drawing from the experiences of a 21-year-old NYU student who faced varied reactions after an op-ed, we get a more nuanced picture.

A blue flag featuring the NYU logo with a torch symbol, hanging against a backdrop of a red brick building

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The diversity of responses from a progressive environment hints at the multifaceted views within Gen Z.

Agreement Behind Closed Doors

Further insights from the student’s narrative show another emerging trend: while many individuals found themselves aligning with alternative viewpoints, they often chose to express their agreement privately.

Lower legs and feet of three people wearing shoes – one with checkerboard Vans slip-ons and the others with sandals and white sneakers

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This trend illuminates a prevalent climate of caution and hesitance among Gen Z.


Why Many Choose to Hold Back

Recent data paints a picture of a significant fraction of students practicing self-censorship, driven by concerns over potential reputational damage.

Five people standing and sitting by a chain-link fence with a graffiti-covered train car in the background

Source: Elliot Reyna/Unsplash

Such a trend begs the question: if given a safe environment, how many more might voice similar beliefs or challenge the prevailing narratives?


Cancel Culture's Isolating Impact

One of the standout attributes of cancel culture is its knack for making individuals feel solitary in their beliefs.

A person with reddish hair, wearing a checkered shirt and blue jeans, sits hunched over on stone steps, their head resting on their knees

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For many members of Gen Z, this sense of isolation, even when surrounded by peers, has profound implications on how they navigate their personal and social domains.


The Double-Edged Sword of Online Expression

For Generation Z, the digital realm isn’t just a tool; it’s their turf.

A young woman with braided hair, lounging on a bed with colorful pillows, gazes intently at her smartphone

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Yet, with the magnifying power of social media, they find themselves balancing the act of genuine self-expression against the pitfalls of potential digital transgressions, which could have lasting repercussions.


Moving Towards a Kinder, Empathetic Culture

While the prevailing narrative often paints the youth as advocates for a blame-driven culture, a deeper exploration reveals a different sentiment.

Three young women sharing a joyful moment in a tulip field. One in a striped shirt smiles down, another in a leather jacket laughs, and the third in denim overalls looks up with a cheerful expression

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There’s a distinct and growing desire among the younger generation to shift away from this blame-centric approach, leaning more towards cultivating an environment grounded in empathy, understanding, and a genuine spirit of forgiveness.


Mistakes: Stepping Stones, Not Stumbling Blocks

A resonating sentiment, especially among the younger individuals, underscores the importance of growth through errors.

Four individuals in front of a white bookshelf filled with books and binders. Three men are in the foreground, two of whom are laughing and leaning towards a laptop on a table. The third man in a cap is looking down. To the right, a part of another individual is visible, focused on a separate laptop

Source: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

The consensus? A society that nurtures personal development by allowing its members to learn from their mistakes can cultivate a richer, more supportive community.


Crafting Spaces for Open, Honest Dialogue

The dynamics between Generation Z and cancel culture are intricate and frequently misconstrued. It’s imperative that we create spaces that promote uninhibited conversations and exchange of ideas.

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This not only helps in understanding the nuanced views of this generation better but also ensures a well-rounded, informed perspective on the ever-changing attitudes and beliefs they hold.