Gen Z gets a bad rap – and rightfully so.
Employers and professors alike know they have to walk on eggshells around coddled students or new hires who seem to be offended by something new every day – and are willing to report them to HR or put them on blast on social media for supposed transgressions.
It’s true that Gen Zers are often at the helm of cancel culture campaigns. But I come bearing good news: it’s a tyranny of the minority. We’re not nearly as awful as our squeakiest wheels might suggest.
I know that as a Zoomer myself – but also thanks to survey data that shows that Gen Z actually has the most negative view of cancel culture of any generation.
According to a Morning Consult survey, although younger Americans tend to have a more positive view of cancel culture, with Millennials being the most pro-cancel culture generation, Zoomers reverse that trend entirely.
Just 8% of Gen Zers born between 1997 and 2008 say they have a positive view of cancel culture, while a whopping 55% have a negative view.
The fact of the matter is, when it comes to young people and cancel culture, it’s a true tyranny of the minority – and most of us are entirely fed up with dodging the PC tripwire.
I know this firsthand. When I was a 21-year-old NYU student, I decided to write an op-ed about the crisis of free speech on campus in the New York Post. I braced for the mob to come for me.
While I did weather some blowback on social media and lost a few friends, I was shocked to find that, even at my ultra-progressive campus, the response from the vast majority of community members was overwhelmingly positive.
I was heartened to see how many people came out of the woodwork to support me, from former dorm room neighbors to classmates to professors and even deans.
Most of the conversations followed a similar trajectory: “Thanks for speaking out. I totally agree with you – but just please don’t tell anyone we had this conversation.”
Surveys show that the majority of students self-censor on campus and fear that they may damage their reputation.
If young people are sitting on their hands and biting their tongues, they may never realize that like-minded, intellectually curious peers are all around them.
Cancel culture thrives by making everyone feel alone.
Young people are too afraid to stick their necks out there and take a risk – and understandably so. We grew up in the age of social media, where one silly misstep even as a teen could upend your life.
That’s why young people are overwhelmingly opposed to cancel culture. We’re desperate for a shift away from condemnation and toward forgiveness.
Unless we want to raise a generation of citizens who live in perpetual fear of being burned at the stake for saying or doing the wrong thing, we must cancel cancel culture once and for all.
We need to give people, and especially young people, the freedom to fumble – and to learn from mistakes.
It’s time to extend some grace and embrace forgiveness so that more young people can grow into their authentic voices and authentic selves.
Courage is contagious. We can’t let the tyrants win.