Why ‘call-out’ culture is counterproductive

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

Shaming and harassing the uneducated

By Carlos Bilan, Staff Writer

“Call-out” culture is prevalent in social media, especially when concerning the topic of social justice. From the name itself, it’s the act of calling someone out for doing something offensive.

It’s usually the case that a person gets called out when they make a remark that is either racist, homophobic, misogynistic, transphobic, or anything oppressive towards a marginalized group. This is by either posting a screenshot, sharing the post, or any other means of exposing the offender. The argument for this is that they want to educate their followers about why this person is horrible and why what they did is wrong. It becomes similar to “public shaming,” by letting the repercussions educate the offender. Unfortunately, this method is not always effective, and is in fact counterproductive.

The natural reaction of those who see these call-outs is to get offended and angry, so the called-out person will start receiving many messages. Not all of these messages will be informing the person why what they did is wrong; there are likely going to be anonymous messages telling the person to kill themselves, or other extreme things. Not only that, there can also be insults about the called-out person’s appearance. People who do the calling-out may get creative and compare the person to an ugly character and thus, the person becomes a laughing stock. It now becomes a form of online bullying, because the person becomes a spectacle for everyone to make fun of, and the followers of the individual who support “call-out” culture get riled up.

Instead of conveying an educational message, it creates an environment of fear and toxicity. It also gives a bad impression of social justice. Sometimes, the individual learns and acknowledges the consequences of their actions, but this rarely happens. What usually happens is that the individual gets pushed further towards ignorance. Moreover, the offender could use it as even more reason to justify their oppressive actions. The offender could even start to trivialise advocates of social justice calling them the pejorative “social justice warriors,” and the offender becomes an anti-SJW.

You might think that it will all end when the individual makes an apology, but that is not the case. People who usually participate in the culture will think that the offender only apologized because they got caught. Even when it was a remark made by someone as young as 14, this gets overlooked by people who call out.

In the case of influential and famous individuals, calling them out for something they did is acceptable as it creates awareness. For example, posting on social media how Mike Pence is a horrible person because he proposes conversion therapy and is notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ informs others of how his ideals are harmful towards minorities, which is important because he is a person in a democratically-elected position of power.

However, singling out an individual you encounter on social media brings problems. If you really want to educate the person, then send them a private message explaining to them why the action was offensive. I can vouch that I have educated people this way and they can begin to unlearn this behaviour. Let’s be honest, not all of us are born educated about social issues, and most of us have done many things in the past which could get us called out. Even I, a person of colour, am not an exception. If we know now why our past behaviours are problematic, we definitely did not learn the reasons why from “public shaming,” but instead from educational articles and discussions.