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The Mob Mentality Bandwagon

January 25, 2023

A key factor within cancel culture is the concept of mob mentality— the natural reaction to “hop on the bandwagon” and join a majority group in shunning someone who has been canceled.

Jesuit counselor Mr. Jason Barry detailed how a canceller never acts alone.

“Someone can get more than just 4 or 5 friends; they will get 40, 50 people to feel the same way about a teen,” Barry said. “If teens decide they don’t like somebody, they can just make that person’s life horrible.”

Canceling can also leave the victim devoid of vital social support.

AP Psychology teacher Mrs. Malia Bernards pointed out how group cancellation elicits consequences for the victim later in life.

“Adolescence is a time for exploring social identity and forming viewpoints,” Bernards said. “Cancellation can have the capacity to really shut down adolescent motivation to explore new questions and ideas, and that can be pretty problematic.”

In addition to causing harm for victims, the mob mentality of cancel culture impacts bystanders wishing to stay out of a sticky situation. Junior Griffin Scott outlined what failing to follow a canceling mob can entail.

“Even if you know it’s untruthful and someone actually didn’t do the thing they’re getting canceled for, you feel like if you stood up for them you would get thrown under the bus and canceled as well,” Scott said.

Sophomore Lila Barthold reflected on the role social media plays in perpetuating guilt in bystanders.

“I feel like when something [about someone or something that’s canceled] gets posted on social media, everyone feels the need to repost it just so you don’t get left out,” Barthold said. “If you didn’t, someone could say, ‘Oh, I didn’t see you repost this… does this mean you support that person or idea?”

High school hierarchies fuel the mob mentality. Barthold spoke on where she observes social roles in cancel culture.

“I feel like whoever’s canceled is always really well known,” Barthold said. “If no one knew who they were, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal if they were involved in a scandal.”

Sophomore Nikhil Chaudhari agreed with Barthold, and added why kids may feel incentivized to cancel someone at the “top” of the social chain.

“If they’re super popular, a lot of times people may even want them to get canceled, in hopes that they could rise up to take their societal spot,” Chaudhari said.

It’s an “us against them” mindset, as media psychologist Dr. Pam Rutledge wrote in a blog post about cancel culture and conflict resolution. Rutledge summarized how cancel culture encourages polarization by discouraging kids to stand up for each other, and how the threat of cancellation causes adolescents to worry that any mistake they make may cause them to be the next outcast.

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