Melbourne, in many pockets, is a bubble of leftism, with some level of political correctness and social awareness commonplace amongst even more conservative circles. With the increasing presence of digital information in our lives, this phenomenon is growing across all communities, large and small, across all points of political ideology.
We all suddenly have access to resources with the ability to quickly and easily educate ourselves and others on social justice issues. Generations Z (13-19-year-olds) and Y (20-35-year-olds) are the most social media users and tend to be politically radical.
This means that online platforms (especially social media) are now becoming soapboxes for any opinions, fostering discourse, creating change, and possibly tearing communities apart.
The reason is call-out culture– a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, this behavior stops discrimination in its tracks. Suddenly, there is an instant response option to digital harassment and cyberbullying. Racism, sexism, classism, or homophobia, omnipresent in online environments, are experiencing more scrutiny than ever before.
That being said, many of the calling-out occurring on social media platforms at the moment is manifesting laterally, between peer groups, and being carried out in a way that does more harm than good. Call-out culture has become a way for people to exert themselves over others, dominating them with “education” and “intellect”, shaming them mercilessly, and failing to recognize that social awareness is a process and that people can grow and change.
First, access to political resources is a privilege, even in the Internet age. Many young people assume that everyone is “woke”, or should be when it takes time, effort, access, and energy to reach that point.
Second, call-out culture assumes that the person calling out knows best and sets the standards for what is appropriate. Such a heightened sense of self is not going to connect us– it’s simply going to make other people feel inferior, afraid to speak, and afraid to ask questions.
When you act “holier than thou,” you marginalize people. And doesn’t that defeat the purpose of progressive political action in the first place? Rather than try to boast a position of ultimate authority, encourage discussion on your online channels and engage with your peers (of all viewpoints) rather than shutting them down.
Call-out culture is also a popular way for customers to criticize brands for everything from insensitivities to poor customer service experiences.
Things can be tricky if you happen to be on the receiving end of call-outs. For businesses and individuals alike, it’s essential to fact-check and “offend-check” before putting anything online. This reduces the chances that we harm or marginalize others with our words or make silly mistakes that impact our reputation (now or later on).
We must also know how to respond to call-outs appropriately. As hard as it may be, the best course of action is to address the problem immediately, remain humble, and admit mistakes. Bad press is not fun, but responding to it is always better than staying silent.
Cross-cultural communication is one of the social media’s most extensive benefits, but with call-outs so prevalent and the fear of misspeaking so great, taking advantage of this opportunity can be complicated. Additionally, politics (and interpretations of such) are constantly shifting.
For now, we encourage those active on digital platforms to pursue self-education above all else and stop trying to enlighten everyone else. Keep your path clean, and others will respect you for it.