Calling Out Call-out Culture
Tue, April 20, 2021

Calling Out Call-out Culture

Since 2014, social media has grown exponentially, changing the way we live our lives. Social media platforms have given us a way to communicate with other people. They also offer countless possibilities to share user-generated content, like photos and videos. In return, we turn to social media whenever we need something: to look for the latest news, to ask people about certain things, or to just simply share our lives with them.

StatCounter, a web traffic analysis website started in 1999, reported that as of January 2020, the most used social media sites across the world include Facebook (61.3%), Twitter (14.51%), Pinterest (11.45%), Instagram (8.4%), YouTube (3.33%), and Tumblr (0.39%). With the growing popularity of these platforms, it’s not surprising to see that the number of users has also been increasing. Current statistics show that there are currently 3.5 billion social media users, which is equivalent to 42% of the population, worldwide.

Of all the social media platforms, Facebook is considered the market leader, massively shaping the social media landscape and even influencing people’s views since its launch. It remains the most widely used social media platform, with over 2.32 billion users. In the US alone, about two-thirds of adults reported being Facebook users. Aside from that, it was also the first-ever social network to surpass the one billion active user mark, reaching this milestone in the third quarter of 2012.

The mobile possibilities for users are continually improving, making it simpler by day to access social media, no matter where you are. Social media is mainly composed of three generations: Millennials (90.4%), Generation X (77.5%), and Baby Boomers (48.2%). Of all these generations, millennials continue to be the group with the highest use of social media. Oberlo, an online site that connects Shopify merchants with suppliers who ship products directly to consumers, reported that social media users spend an average of three hours a day on social networks and messaging. 

With these current figures, it’s safe to say that social media has become one of the most influential aspects that shape our opinions and perspectives. These platforms can be used to support good causes and promote campaigns that fight for our rights. However, social media is also a dark place. It’s an avenue where you get to see all kinds of bullying, harassment, and abuse. It has also given birth to what we call the “call-out culture,” a phenomenon that aims to hold people accountable for their views and actions by calling them out. 

The Destructiveness of Call-Out Culture

Last October 2019, former US President Barack Obama spoke at an Obama Foundation event at Chicago, where he tackled how social media users are using call-out culture the wrong way. Throughout the years, we have seen call-outs, which are intended as constructive, turn destructive in nature. Most of the time, progressives and radicals are the ones who publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behavior and language used by others. They call out their statements and actions that are oppressive, sexist, and more.

Since call-outs are made publicly, it has become unnecessarily so toxic that it hardly gives anyone the chance to learn and make up for their mistakes. It’s become a public performance where people can demonstrate their wit or how pure their politics are. In most cases, some people are more focused on the performance itself rather than the content of the call-out. According to The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, some people even use call-out culture as an excuse to start petty drama. They want to stir up gossip more than to promote social justice.

Thus, Obama emphasized that call-outs can give the illusion that you’re effecting change, even if that is not true. “This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly. The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws,” Obama said.

“If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong word or verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, because, ‘Man, you see how woke I was. I called you out.’ That’s not activism,” he added. 

According to The Walrus, an online site that provokes new thinking and sparks conversation on matters vital to Canadians, some activists from within the same community even tear each other apart on social media over relatively minor disagreements. In times like this, people often forget that the individual we are calling out is a human being. One wrong statement or action becomes a reason for many people to condemn someone’s entire being. Call-out culture banishes and disposes of individuals rather than engages them with educational discussions. 

Aside from individuals, corporate giants and small businesses are facing the same backlash. A recent study conducted by WhoIsHostingThis.com revealed that 51% of respondents said they'd called out a company. Of this figure, 44% are baby boomers who had complained about a company, while men were more likely to voice their concerns. According to Forbes, a global media company focusing on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and lifestyle, the study showed that 52% of the respondents stated that they call out companies to raise awareness and 50% said it was so that others could avoid similar problems.

"Social media scare companies into performing customer service the way they should," social media consultant Lon Safko, author of “The Social Media Bible,” said.

Why People Embrace Call-Out Culture

The good thing about call-out culture is that it empowers people to voice out their opinions, which is essential in a democratic society. People have felt so powerless to stand up for what they think is right because they didn't know if their views would make a change. Most of the time, their opinions are simply ignored. At the same time, people are taught that they have no right to express their thoughts or feelings because they are “disrespectful.”

Thus, many saw social media as a chance to stand up and do what is right. What people should do now is to use call-out culture the right way. Make it a platform to engage people and educate them instead of just calling them out to shame them.