A threat which looms behind the success of any online personality is their capacity to be “canceled.” Depending on which direction the social tide currently flows, things you thought were fine to do and say in the past can strategically be used to ruin your online reputation.
The actions you’re in trouble for may have stemmed from ignorance, naivety, and lack of strategic foresight. As you do something you shouldn’t have (in the perception of the masses) you may find yourself to be the next one to be “canceled” from social discourse.
The cancelling of online personalities is a mass act of unfollowing, defaming, and defunding. Millions of people can get involved. The goals of the masses seem to first start off with a social cause in mind, these movements seek justice, and since you’ve disturbed the balance of perceived social / criminal justice, you must now pay for your sins in the social context.
Once the ball starts rolling, there’s not much that can be done to stop the movement. As envy, jealousy, opportunity, and a sense of entertainment become mixed into this picture of legitimate public outrage, the fire around you burns excruciatingly hot.
The good news, is that the most painful portions of the backlash don’t last too long. The effects these movements have on your finances, businesses, and image though, can be here to stay.
This article aims to provide a sense of understanding for those who are facing unexpected backlash online. Judgement is set aside in this article, and a general attempt to guide you through interpreting what’s happening to you (and how to move forward) will be made below.
Things to Know:
Your Demise Will Become a Social Event
Your selection by the masses to be canceled / unfollowed / shamed will grow from being unique and personal to your situation, to an impersonal social event for the masses to attend to. Your demise will become a thing to participate in and perhaps derive entertainment from. It’s important that you start watching these happenings with an observatory frame of mind.
Remember, the vast majority of individuals attacking you do now know you, but they do understand how much pain they aim to deliver. They’ll come for blood; your video views, your numbers, and your sources of income will be attacked. You will become persona non grata.
Understand that your demise has become a social event, rather than a personalized, balanced, attempt at seeking justice. In being previously seen as a winner in the game that most people online attempt to play, do not be surprised if the effects of envy also make their mark. Things will be hectic, people will be vicious, and it’ll become easy to either be overly responsive or simply hide until it’s all over.
Notwithstanding how you personally react, observe your image / brand as being a part of this combative social event rather than a personal one.
Your Grave (and Apology) Will Be Spit On
People are sensitive to public attempts at controlling image, and minimizing damage to a brand. Your apologies will be massively disliked, and your genuine attempts at seeming regretful of the actions that got you in trouble will simply be ignored.
Take it as a given that all attempts at damage control will be sniffed out by the public. You have too many eyes and ears on you at the time of being targeted by the masses. Your apology will miss things people will dig up from the past, and your regret will be hypocritical compared to past videos / comments / and posts you made yourself.
Though you should apologize if you feel the need to, do not expect it to benefit you in any way. Apologize due to a simple desire to apologize to people that you’ve wronged. Do not expect any apologies you make to magically cure what the public deems you to be in trouble for.
Your Arguments Will Not Work
On a similar note to apologies and regret, you’ll likely feel the need to give your side of the story at hand. You’ll dig up old texts, comments, and photos. You’ll try to defend yourself with absolute knowledge of the truth, and will have concrete evidence to prove at least some innocence.
Remember that the momentum of the opinion of the masses does not respond to reason and logic once it’s been set on taking someone down. It is not the ignorance of all the individuals which is against you, rather, it is simply a primacy bias coupled with shear numbers not being on your side.
The horse is out of the barn, and voicing your side of the story prematurely will only serve to make the horse run faster and thrash more violently.
Things to Do:
Ride out the Storm
Though this may not have to be said, be set on first riding out the storm of public opinion and discourse surrounding you. Your apologies won’t be rewarded, your regrets won’t be empathized with, and your innocence will not be believed. Still though, continue on.
Seeing more attacks on your name and image come your way as you’re doing all the things being commanded of you by the masses is a normal part of the process. Simply do what needs to be done, and do not stand out in your attempts at doing those things.
The public may call for an apology, your managers may call for you to make a video explaining everything, and your friends may advise you on best ways to handle the storm at play. Do what you decide is best to do when you’re in the eye of the storm. Don’t expect anything to get better, but simply set your sights on riding out the worst parts.
Show More of Yourself to Entice the Recognition of Your Authenticity
As you find yourself on the tail end of the storm you went through, now it’ll be time to take productive action. A strategy which seems to improve things is to give people the opportunity to watch / listen / and read your thoughts in a more accessible, lengthier format.
The people who were once savagely attacking your image will now be interested in your perception of the storm they unleashed upon you. Your first instances of showing yourself back in the online spotlight will be a magnet for volatile, interested gazes and ears.
Simply be you, but in a more accessible manner. This means show more of yourself more often. Allow others to experience the human behind the character / brand which they were so adamant about attacking. This step is all about giving them more opportunities to see that in addition to all the bad aspects of your personality, you have relatable, good aspects about you as well.
Examples of this can be making longer videos, accepting requests for long form interviews, and being more frequent in how you interact with your community of followers. Do not be surprised if the attacks keep on coming. The point is not to stop the backlash you face with this step. The point first, is to show that you’re willing to exhibit the changes you’re making for the public to see. Second, a goal should be to reestablish how authentic, real, and human the public perceives you to be.
Make the Damage You’ve (and Your Businesses) Sustained Publicly Known
As you take steps to show more of yourself to the people who stuck around to listen, you’ll inevitably have to address the events that transpired. Since “cancel” culture is predicated on damaging the target, it seems to be a mistake to act like no damage to your image or brand was done.
Show those who sought to bring you down exactly how much damage they did. Allow them to see that their efforts to bring you pain were successful. This would serve to give people a sense of finality to the efforts they’ve expended in trying to “cancel” your online presence.
Do not react emotionally to the damage caused, but explain what you’ve experienced in an observatory, educational tone. The people listening will be interested to know about how your image, opportunities, and finances have suffered.
Ignoring the fact that you suffered damage from the legitimate attempts to defame you online will entice people to keep going.
Acknowledge That Things Will Never Be the Same
The second step to making your attackers feel as if their efforts were successful in achieving their goals, will be to show / explain that you’ve sustained lasting damage to your career, fame, and opportunities.
Take ownership of the circumstances at hand by making it known that you’re not blaming anyone but yourself. As you do, make it known that you’ve been permanently affected by the events that have transpired, and even if you choose to not learn any lessons from it all, its effects will follow you for life.
Doing this will add onto the contentment felt by those who were rigidly against the idea of you having a voice online. You won’t seem like you’re attempting to fix everything back to a state that it was in. Acknowledging sustaining permanent damage will send the message that you understand the inevitability of changes to come.
If you’re willing to permanently sustain damage to your brand, you’d be willing to permanently change as an individual (in the minds of those looking on). They’ll feel vindicated in their attempts to silence you and bring you down in notoriety, whilst also seeing that you’re accepting of the changes that are to come in your life.
Be Honest in How You Felt During the ‘Cancelation’
In an effort to build trust in the honesty with which you’d be operating after the worst parts of the backlash you faced are over, you’d need to voice some expected truths about how you felt in the moment. Keep in mind that your commentary should be observatory of how you felt in the past. Not how you feel right now. Be honest with how painful, how bad, and how scary it was to be on the receiving end of the backlash you faced.
Communicate how your internal reaction shifted from phases of anger, resentment, regret, acceptance, and then to learning. Be as honest as you can be with how you felt during the backlash you faced.
The purpose of this step is to first humanize your viewpoint in the matter, and then to admit to not always understanding why you were receiving the backlash. Nobody simply accepts the backlash they receive. People go through stages in terms of how they feel in the face of backlash they face. There is often anger and misunderstandings floating around the traumatic event of receiving backlash. Voice the angers you felt and the things you did not understand.
Package Your Mistakes as Genuine Lessons for Yourself and Those Who Stuck Around
Finally, ensure that you are at peace with the mistakes you made which caused your “cancellation” from social relevance. Voice your honest analysis of the mistakes you made, and the lessons you learned, to the portion of the fan-base which wants to listen.
You’ll be quickly reminded if you’re off the mark in the analysis of the mistakes you made. Ensure that you’ve analyzed your behavior in a healthy, complete, manner and perhaps sought professional help to pinpoint where the mistakes you made were.
Show that you’ve changed by being absolutely objective surrounding the mistakes which led to the backlash you received. Yearn to package that information to be perceived as lessons for those who are still listening to take away in the long form content you dedicate yourself to providing (as mentioned above). Be detailed in your analysis and allow your authentic inner voice to be heard by others.
As you continue creating content online, continuously refer to the mistakes you made during this instance when the context calls for it. Do not shy away from completely owning the fact that you made mistakes which cost you big time in the context of social discourse online. A sign that you’ve learned from your mistakes will be your act of continued, long lasting, use of references to the mistakes you made.
You’ll begin treating your prior mistakes as actions of a past version of you. As you do, your audience will begin to share that sentiment. They’ll begin viewing the person who received all the backlash as having grown and learned from his / her mistakes. You give yourself the best chance of moving forward by owning the mistakes you made along with ensuring that you clearly / honestly communicate the lessons you learned.
As you can now tell, there isn’t a magic formula to remaining unscathed in the face of backlash online or in the realm of popular social discourse. You’ll lose followers, your videos will be disliked, and your social media presence will generally take a hit. The time is scary and it is hectic.
This article hoped to communicate a sense of understanding, and to realistically set your expectations for what may be to come. It remained general in the steps it proposed as the specifics of your situation may differ from others. With that said however, the hope is that you now have a framework to build your strategy of dealing with backlash around.